Notes and Editorial Reviews
String Quartets: in c,
, op. 124
Utrecht Str Qrt
MDG 603 1388 (68: 40)
Grechaninov is commonly thought of as a composer whose works are somewhat conservative and hark back to the style of his teachers, above all Rimsky-Korsakov; but the two quartets given here amply demonstrate the extent to which he fell under modern Western influences. Debussy, Scriabin, Richard Strauss, and Wagner all left
their subtle imprint upon the C-Minor Quartet, the fabric of which is a fine construct of emotion and restraint in which the influences are balanced by a clear understanding of form and structure. Iosif Raiskin?s fine booklet note aptly terms this ?New ideas in old words,? which goes some way to explain the compositional aims of Grechaninov in his later years. For all this, his own voice comes across as unfailingly vital and soulful within the music.
It is the Fourth String Quartet in F that most clearly articulates Grechaninov?s vision of what a string quartet might be. Composed at the age of 65 during his self-imposed exile in Paris, the work looks back with some clarity of vision to Borodin in particular, and Beethoven, too, in his quotation and metamorphosis of themes drawn from the latter?s Fifth Symphony. Grechaninov?s lyrical gifts are displayed to the full in the second movement, within which the central section is a notable aria for violin solo with trio accompaniment. The work is worth hearing for the sensitivity of this passage alone.
The Utrecht String Quartet?s performances project confidence, musical handling of individual lines and care with the shaping of phrases that never suggests an over-studying of the score, though these works have undoubtedly been lived with. Recorded with immediacy, the individual instruments relate well to each other and integrate pleasingly within the sound picture. There is a slight bias towards the bass register, which allows the 1680 Medard cello to project its rich tone with ample fullness, though the other three instruments also possess warmth of tone that in no small measure contributes to these enjoyable readings.
The third quartet receives a performance by the Dante Quartet on the Dutton label that was welcomed in
28:3. With the only competing version of both works from the Moyzes Quartet on Marco Polo currently unavailable, the present release holds the field. A rewarding journey into all too-neglected repertoire.
FANFARE: Evan Dickerson
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