Hyperion has reissued on its midpriced Helios label this fine program of English works for string quartet, recorded in 1994. The composers, born approximately 20 years apart in the order given in the headnote, offer an insight into the evolutionary trends in British music before, throughout, and after the 20th century’s two Great Wars.
The String Quartet No. 1 in D major, Opus 11, was Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's first completed string quartet of three string quartets, published during his lifetime. (An earlier attempt had been abandoned after the first movement had been completed.) Composed in February 1871, it was premiered in Moscow on 16/28 March 1871 by four members of the Russian Musical Society: Ferdinand Laub and Ludvig Minkus, violins; Pryanishnikov, viola; and Wilhelm Fitzenhagen, cello.
As persistency goes, one must give credit where it is due to the Vitamin imprint. Their rigorous schedule of releases assures the public that there will be, at bare minimum, one to two releases per month paying homage to a current pop icon or legendary rock figure. With this installment, the label looks to honor one of grunge's most revered albums, if not the most revered album of the era: Nirvana's Nevermind. Stripped of the brutal percussion work, the squelching fierce attack of Kurt Cobain's guitar mastery and his trademark screams, the quartet find and emphasize layer after layer within the simplicity of Cobain's melodies and song arrangements. While some songs don't transfer over well in the process, others work quite nicely. While most people can easily dismiss this as a novelty (and to a degree, it is), there are interesting aspects to this album that the die-hard Nirvana fan will find intriguing and enjoyable.
The string quartets of Danish music's eccentric outsider Rued Langgaard (1893-1952) are passionate works of the composer's youth, representing both his nostalgically romantic side and his profoundly visionary modernity. For the first time on CD, this recording series presents all 9 quartets in the award-winning young Nightingale String Quartet's distinctly dramatic interpretation based on the revised Rued Langgaard Edition.
The peerless Takacs Quartet recently nominated for a Gramophone award for their second disc of Brahms's string quartets, continue their exploration of the Romantic chamber music tradition with this disc of Schumann. The Piano Quintet is by far Schumann's most popular chamber work and one of the most beloved works in the genre. Schumann was the first romantic composer to pair the piano with the string quartet. Schumann studied the string quartets of Beethoven, Mozart and Haydn and his quartet Op. 41 No. 3 demonstrates these influences. However, it contains many highly original strokes, particularly the casting of the scherzo as a set of variations. The Takacs Quartet are joined by Marc-Andre Hamelin in an invigorating partnership that has already been widely acclaimed on the concert platform.
Franck’s Piano Quintet and Debussy’s String Quartet make an apt and unusual coupling, each work its composer’s only, unsurpassable, contribution to the genre. Both receive authoritative performances from Marc-André Hamelin and the Takács Quartet.
Haydn’s six Op. 20 string quartets are milestones in the history of the genre. He wrote them in 1772 for performance by his colleagues at the Esterházy court and, unusually, not specifically for publication. Each one is a unique masterpiece and the set introduces compositional techniques that radically transformed the genre and shaped it for centuries to come. Haydn overturns conventional instrumental roles, crafts remarkably original colours and textures, and unlocks new expressive possibilities in these works which were crucial in establishing the reputation of purely instrumental music. The range within the quartets is kaleidoscopic. From the introspective, chorale-like slow movement of No. 1 via the terse and radical quartet No. 3 in G minor to the comic spirit of the fourth in D major, each of the quartets inhabits a distinct musical world. For many, this is some of the greatest music Haydn ever wrote. Playing these seminal works is one of the world’s finest young ensembles, the Doric String Quartet.
The Beethoven quartets have always been at the cote of the Emerson Quartet's repertoire, and over the years it has honed its playing of these works to a fine degree. Here in this new set we encounter exaltation, immaculate playing and ensemble precision of awesome proportions (typically, first and second violinists often swap their roles). The Emerson is perhaps the best rehearsed quartet of our century. The playing is not only flawless technically, but reflects a careful study of the music, both formally and in the players' intense preoccupation with textual matters. The recording of this set is also spectacular.