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Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Guy Ropartz - String Quartets Nos. 2 & 3 (Quatuor Stanislas)


Composer: Guy Ropartz
  1. String Quartet No. 3 in G major: I. Allegro moderato
  2. String Quartet No. 3 in G major: II. Molto vivace
  3. String Quartet No. 3 in G major: III. Lento
  4. String Quartet No. 3 in G major: IV. Allegro
  5. String Quartet No. 2 in D minor: I. Grave - Modéré
  6. String Quartet No. 2 in D minor: II. Assez vif
  7. String Quartet No. 2 in D minor: III. Très lent
  8. String Quartet No. 2 in D minor: IV. Animé

Quatuor Stanislas
Laurent Causse, violin
Bertrand Menut, violin
Paul Fenton, viola
Jean de Spengler, cello

Date: 2004
Label: Timpani



Ropartz and Timpani; two names that are becoming inseparable. This connoisseurs label has been the enthusiastic and enthusing advocate of Ropartz for many years. While one of their Ropartz efforts proved small beer (the Orchestra de Bretagne anthology) all of their other Ropartz discs have been cause for celebration. Their CD of symphonies 2 and 5 has just been issued. Le Pays - Ropartz’s opera - was splendidly done by Timpani a couple of years back and is well worth tracking down for its stark rather than lush take on French late-romantic opera.

Their Ropartz chamber music recital on Timpani 1C1047 including the Fourth Quartet makes for a satisfying cross-section. That recording of No. 4, made in 1996, was by ‘Ensemble Stanislas’ - presumably the same ensemble now making this intégrale.

The Third Quartet comes first. It was premiered by the Calvet Quartet. In four movements - just like the Second - it is a passionate work often akin to the Ravel quartet in its ecstatic crooning. It opens with a recurrent lapping and sighing motif evolving into an exciting climactic statement. The finale’s memorably sun-soaked contentment is nicely set off by the slightly acerbic tone of the two violins and contrasts with the sinister expressionist (Zemlinsky, Van Dieren) episodes in the Lento. The Second Quartet pre-dates the Great War and is predominantly quite different in character from No. 3. Contrary to my expectations of an optimistic serenading work the music is at first classically severe with occasional relaxation in the first movement into folk-like dances and lissom asides as at 5:33. The Assez vif (II) is also fairly stern although the hiccuping figure (1:19, II) recalls Dukas’s apprentice and Berlioz’s capering demons. The dignified music of the long Très lent (III) sustains the mood and provides a meditative romantic-spiritual preparation for the plunging and singing finale. This harks back to earlier movements, artfully weaving the instrumental threads together. Across its four movements the work traces a path from rigidity and darkness into a pliant and healthy light-filled landscape.

As with most if not all Timpani releases this disc is presented in a hard-card folding frame with the booklet slipped into a slit on the inside front cover. The CD is stem-mounted on a plastic case onto the inside rear section of the card-fold. It’s all tastefully designed. In fact everything is done in sympathy with a completely satisfying visual effect.

The Third Quartet was dedicated to another one of the great neglecteds of France, the composer G. M. Witkowski (any thoughts, Timpani?). Paul Dukas was the dedicatee of the Second.

Ropartz’s complete string quartets are being recorded by Timpani with Quatuor Stanislas in the opera house in Nancy under the aegis of Opéra National de Nancy et de Lorraine. When completed the line-up is expected to be as follows:

Vol. 1 Quartets 2 and 3

Vol. 2 Quartets 4, 5 and 6 (November 2006)

Vol. 3 Quartet 1 and Pieces for quartet (2007)

I wish them every success.

This is an easily recommendable disc setting out on a formidably desirable pioneering project. These quartets, ably and sympathetically performed, should both satisfy and whet the appetite of any admirer of 20th century melodic chamber music. Two more volumes to come!

-- Rob Barnett, MusicWeb International

More reviews:


Guy Ropartz (June 15, 1864 – November 22, 1955) was a French composer and conductor. His compositions included five symphonies, three violin sonatas, cello sonatas, six string quartets, a piano trio and string trio (both in A minor), stage works, a number of choral works and other music including a Prélude, Marine et Chansons for flute, harp and string trio, often alluding to his Breton heritage. He self-identified as a Celtic Breton. His musical style was influenced by Claude Debussy and César Franck. Ropartz was also a writer of literary works, notably poetry.


Founded in 1984, the Stanislas Quartet was named after Stanislas Lescinsky, King of Poland and the last Duke of Lorraine, who made Nancy his renowned capital. Alone or as part of a larger group, the Stanislas Quartet and Ensemble became one of the more interesting French ensembles, notable for the quality of their interpretations as well as the originality of programming. Each year, they have a concerts-series in Nancy with  an enthusiastic and ever increasing public. The Stanislas Ensemble and Quartet has already recorded  over twenty  compact discs, warmly received by international critics.


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