These quartets were recorded in sumptuous sound from December 1967 to the middle of ’68. Remastering can lead to shrillness which undermines intonation – but not here. This sounds fabulous above the stave.
Yet quite contemporary, Claude Debussy (1862-1918) and Alberic Magnard (1865-1914) have very little in common. However, they have each written a unique string quartet (respectively in 1893 and in 1903, and both created by Belgian groups). This common point is far from being anecdotal. Indeed, many French composers of all this pivotal period maintained with the string quartet such a relationship that they arrived at the same result: to write "their" string quartet.
Yet another Christmas release features the Christmas vocal polyphony of Cristobal de Morales, who is regarded as the first significant Spanish composer of the Renaissance. Like most compositions for this Christian feast, his Christmas motets circulated and were performed throughout Europe, traveling far beyond Spain's borders. His archaic, mystical and expressive musical language, that one almost might term place-less and timeless, must have played a role in this dissemination. Moreover, Morales was active not only in Spanish cathedrals but also spent many years of his creative career as a papal singer in the Sistine Chapel in Rome.
As a fanatic of early music, I was overjoyed when I discovered this recording, having known Weser-Renaissance from their performances of Schutz and other earlier composers. To jump right in, the instrumental tracks are quite powerful. In contrast to many other early music discs I've heard, this one exclusively uses what 16th-century musicians would consider 'high' (loud) instruments…sounds to me like shawms, which would have been used for outdoor performances. Track after track of these can become strident at times, but true to the period.
On February 17, 1962, the public came to hear, at Carnegie Hall, the third of four concerts conducted by Nadia Boulanger - the first woman to take the pulpit of the New York Philharmonic: Three Psalms of his sister Lili and the Solemn Music of Virgil Thomson (orchestrated for the occasion) will be preceded in the program by Faurй's Requiem (1887-1901). Leonard Bernstein, mounted on stage, specifies that it will be given in memory of Bruno Walter, who died the same morning. “A man who was all kindness, warmth, kindness and devotion. We can only mourn him and pay homage to him."
Based only on these 2 quartets, I would have to rank Joseph-Ermend Bonnal as one of the best composers I have never heard of.