Beethoven's String Quartets are well known for their inventiveness. The mold of the string quartet form, established by Haydn, was shattered by Beethoven's profound expression and expansion of the "rules." Between 1999 and 2003, the renowned Pražák Quartet recorded all of the Beethoven string quartets, and this match of program and performers is one made in heaven.
Henryk Górecki is best known for his now, fortunately for us, fairly frequently performed 3rd Symphony "Symphony of Sorrowful Songs'. And while his other music is less often heard, even in the symphony halls, this recording gives the opportunity to experience yet another of this great Polish composer's major works - O Domina Nostra for soprano and organ.
The essay in the program booklet for this release of Górecki's String Quartet No. 3 (…songs were sung), makes much of a supposed caesura in Górecki's creative output following the phenomenal success of Nonesuch's 1992 release of this Third Symphony, with soprano Dawn Upshaw, which elevated him practically to the level of a pop star. The essay implies that his meteoric rise to being one of the most famous and popular contemporary composers may have produced a creative crisis that caused him to wait until 2005 to finally deliver the score of his Third Quartet, which he had written in the winter of 1994-1995. In fact, Górecki's sudden notoriety seems to have had little effect on his creativity; between 1993 and 2004, he wrote 16 opus numbers.
World première recordings of works by John Tavener, Arvo Pärt, Valentin Silvestrov and Alexander Knaifel sit alongside pieces by Henryk Górecki and John Cage on the first recording from a new Irish label operated by noted concert promoters Louth Contemporary Music Society (LCMS). All of these very popular contemporary composers have in various ways been deeply influenced by profound spiritual, religious or cultural encounters, and the disc celebrates them in a moving, magical programme. A Place Between intersperses - to wonderful effect - beautiful works for string quartet (Silvestrov's meditative Ikon, Tavener's deeply moving Ikon of Joy/Sorrow, Pärt's reflective Da Pacem Domine) with two solo piano works (Pärt's uplifting Hymn to a Great City, and Cage’s melodic and expressive In a Landscape). Górecki's memorial for Michael Vyner, Good Night and Knaifel’s mystical O Heavenly King both feature the haunting voice of soprano Patricia Rozario. Silvestrov's 25.X.1893 lullaby is a melancholic and lyrical piece for violin and piano.
Polish composer Henryk Górecki, whose popularity exploded after the success of his Third Symphony, had an interest in and talent for chamber music throughout his long career. It was the Kronos Quartet that provided the impetus and was to commission and premiere each of the composer's three string quartets. Like any of Górecki's works, inspiration is drawn from composers of the past (particularly Beethoven), literary verse, and Polish folk music. Górecki transforms each of these muses into works of his own unique musical language that purposefully explores dissonance, contrasting textures and rhythms, and extremes of both dynamics and tempo. This Hyperion album brings together the three string quartets …..Mike D. Brownell @ allmusic
The 20th century has not been kind to most standard classical music forms. The piano sonata, the concerto, the symphony – none of them have disappeared entirely, but none remain in a state that could be called even remotely healthy. The same was true of the string quartet until 1973, when violinist David Harrington got some friends together to play contemporary music and offered his old high-school composition teacher a bag of donuts if he'd write a piece for them. The resulting composition was the first of over 400 works that have been written for the Kronos Quartet over the course of the following 25 years, a period which has seen the revitalization of the previously moribund string quartet format. But Kronos has done more than simply triple the size of the string quartet repertoire; by focusing on living composers, by cultivating a somewhat rebellious image, and by playing with impeccable professionalism and skill, Kronos has brought a new and primarily young audience to classical music. This massive ten-disc retrospective includes performances of 31 major compositions, most previously released, but some in new recordings. There are none of the miniature works that fill so many of Kronos' individual albums; these are all long-form compositions, all but one presented in their entirety. They include two string quartets by Henryk Gorecki, Terry Riley's post-minimalist Cadenza on the Night Plain, Morton Feldman's Piano and String Quartet, three quartets by Philip Glass, and many others, but the highlights of the collection are the tremendously moving Different Trains by Steve Reich (who combined train sounds, multi-tracked string quartet, and the recorded voices of concentration camp survivors and Pullman porters to create a powerful and deeply personal statement on the Holocaust) and Alfred Schnittke's exquisite Collected Songs Where Every Verse Is Filled With Grief. The packaging is excellent as well, and includes a booklet packed with photos, essays, and notes on the individual composers and compositions.