Life and death. A dialogue of contrasts just as absolute as the masterpieces on the programme of this album by the English string quartet Navarra. That said, if one has to be alive to interpret and appreciate these jewels of the repertoire, the subject of the pieces chosen is always, without exception, death. A death transcended by musical discourses as different from each other as they are powerful and poignantly emotional.
The programme is launched by Joaquin Turina’s delicately introspective Prière du toréador. A poetic and intimate work that gives voice to the one about to risk his life in a Madrid arena. As a man of the 21st century, I can’t help wishing that one day a prayer would be dedicated to the bull. This anti-speciesist confession being made, Prière is a magnificent piece.
Leos Janacek’s Quatuor follows a prestigious genealogy that starts with Beethoven’s Kreutzer Sonata, goes through Tolstoy’s novel of the same title, a jewel that speaks of passionate love, betrayal and murder, and finally comes to Janacek. Janacek’s Quatuor is an absolute pinnacle of mysterious beauty, at times disconcerting, but incandescent with passion that is both contained and overflowing. Like Tolstoy’s short story and Beethoven’s tortured soul.
Schubert’s Death and the Maiden is an imposingly obvious choice. The Austrian’s themes and melodies become ingrained under the skin and in the memory, and invade the soul as few know how to do. The interpretation by the Navarra String Quartet is convincing and touching. Between the longest tracks on the album, a few miniatures by Gyorgy Kurtag, including one for a deceased friend, complete an inspiring playlist. This is an album of high quality, combining great music with the exploration of existential questions.