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Gliere: String Quartets No 1 & 2 / Pulzus String Quartet

Release Date: 06/27/2006 
Label:  Hungaroton   Catalog #: 32401   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Reinhold Gliere
Performer:  János PilzKousay H. Mahdi KadduriEszter Lesták BedoIstván Rajncsák
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Pulzus String Quartet
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 3 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Reinhold Glière (1875–1956) was that curious animal, a Soviet political revolutionary who all his long life cherished the musical means and goals associated in most minds with an era he loathed. But there was never any taint of recidivism on his communist soul. A professor of composition at the Moscow Conservatory for more than two decades, Chairman of the USSR Composer’s Union for a decade, five-time recipient of state prizes and a People’s Artist of the USSR, Glière was no more in danger of a political misstep than he was of adventuring into atonality.

These two works, from the early part of his career, reveal influences that would never cease to guide the composer, though Glière proved remarkably
Read more resourceful at adapting them to fit varying needs along the way. Glazunov’s compositional approach is evident at many points, as in the replacement of the First Quartet’s standard slow movement with a theme and variations; but it’s Borodin’s style that informs the thematic, harmonic, and rhythmic content. The grandly Russian first theme of the opening movement from the Second Quartet (1905) could just as easily have been sung by the Novgorod troops in Prince Igor, while the scherzo’s themes from the First Quartet (1900) could derive from some unknown Borodin chamber work. Even the “Arab” sounding theme that leads off the Second Quartet’s finale is subsequently harmonized in a manner that would have drawn praise from the Moguchaya Kuchka’s leader, Balakirev. The contrasting melody that follows might have been taken from a missing Polovtsian Dance; and so it goes.

None of this is meant as criticism of Glière. He could write undistinguished, simplistic music, as the opera Shah-Senem reveals. On the whole, he was an excellent technician and sometimes an inspired composer. If you enjoy Borodin and wish he hadn’t worked himself to death, take cheer in this pair of string quartets. You won’t be disappointed.

The Pulzus String Quartet is a Hungarian ensemble that was formed in 1999. Only two of the original members are still with the group, but they possess that byplay peculiar to musicians who perform together regularly: a mix of focused energy, common interpretation, and the sound of four spirits performing as one. Very occasionally, I thought they were slightly impatient and inclined to rush, a characteristic of many modern ensembles, as at the start of the variations movement (marked andantino) mentioned above. But usually they find the correct tempo right away, and manifest a big, beautiful, rich noise on top of that. If I had to compare that aspect of the Pulzus ensemble to any other group, it would be the original Borodin Quartet, with a dark, strong cello anchor and wonderful balance between all four instruments.

The liner notes are perfunctory, but the engineering is superior. (Incidentally, the composer’s name is listed throughout as Glier. This is an alternate, not incorrect rendering of the Cyrillic characters. I’ve been in occasional correspondence for several years with a grand niece of the composer, living in France, and she also spells it that way. Yet you’d think Glière would be the French spelling, wouldn’t you?) Fans of the Russian-Romantic tradition should buy this disc right away, as should anybody who wants to hear a sumptuous string-quartet sound applied to music for which it is perfectly suited.

FANFARE: Barry Brenesal
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Works on This Recording

Quartet for Strings no 1 in A major, Op. 2 by Reinhold Gliere
Performer:  János Pilz (Violin), Kousay H. Mahdi Kadduri (Cello), Eszter Lesták Bedo (Violin),
István Rajncsák (Viola)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Pulzus String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1900; Russia 
Venue:  Hungaroton Studio, Hungary 
Length: 26 Minutes 38 Secs. 
Notes: Hungaroton Studio, Hungary (07/29/2005 - 08/05/2005) 
Quartet for Strings no 2 in G minor, Op. 20 by Reinhold Gliere
Performer:  Kousay H. Mahdi Kadduri (Cello), Eszter Lesták Bedo (Violin), János Pilz (Violin),
István Rajncsák (Viola)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Pulzus String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1905; Russia 
Venue:  Hungaroton Studio, Hungary 
Length: 36 Minutes 21 Secs. 
Notes: Hungaroton Studio, Hungary (07/29/2005 - 08/05/2005) 

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