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Szymanowski, Rozycki: String Quartets / Royal String Quartet

Release Date: 01/13/2009 
Label:  Hyperion   Catalog #: 67684   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Karol SzymanowskiLudomir Rozycki
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal String Quartet
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

RÓ?YCKI String Quartet in d, op. 49. SZYMANOWSKI String Quartets: No. 1 in C; No. 2 Royal Str Qrt HYPERION 67684 (70: 20)

The Royals, if you’ll allow, deliver Szymanowski with precision, brilliance, and expressive hollowness—his strange amalgam of the ironic, eldritch, visionary, sardonic, burlesque, and cloying sweetness dwindles, through too many passages, to demonstrations of technical aplomb. Playing Read more together since 1998, these youngsters seem unacquainted with such a hallucinatorily dizzying range, and do not, therefore, project it. Take, for instance, the Second Quartet’s finale, as it works toward convulsive frenzy. The Royals evince exercise-like fast slicing and dicing where, say, either of the optimum Silesian Quartet’s performances (Accord 37, see Fanfare 28:5) or the still available Goldner Quartet’s (Naxos 8.554315) whip up a manic tumult crowned with a sarcastic raspberry.

Ludomir Ró?ycki, as Philip Weller’s liner notes tell, was a Szymanowski contemporary and a member, with Szymanowski, of the short-lived Young Poland group, so often mentioned and so sketchily known. As I write (in late January) he is otherwise represented at arkivmusic.com only by a set of piano pieces—which is to say that this is a significant contribution to the current discography—though a quick glance into the 1995 Bielefelder reveals that he’s enjoyed more extensive representation—a symphonic poem, Anhelli , a piano concerto, etc. With his impassioned post-Romantic utterance there’s palpable identification by the Royals, immediate lift, and a loving performance of sweeping emotional impact introducing, again, another neglected minor master, but worth knowing. Taken close but never clotting, the quartet’s buzzing, humming, piercing presence packs a gratifying wallop. For the Ró?ycki.

FANFARE: Adrian Corleonis

Szymanowski's two string quartets are magnificent pieces that deserve to be much better known. Full of inventive textures and arresting, even hallucinatory ideas, they offer any ensemble some major challenges, which Poland's Royal Quartet surmounts with great confidence. Their sharply focused sound works slightly better in the Second quartet than in the First. In this latter work, a bit less aggressiveness would have paid off well in the first two movements. Like so many modern groups, the Royal seems to have acquired a willingness to roughen its tone more than the music ideally needs, but this is a relatively minor issue. I do wish, though, that they would not count time by breathing loudly. I know, everyone does it, but that doesn't make it pleasant, and it's surely not really necessary.

Ludomir Rózycki (1884-1953) wrote his D minor quartet in 1915/16. It's a much more conservative piece of work compared to the Szymanowski, but it's well written and very attractive, particularly in the finale, which is folk-influenced but never derivative. Like the other two works, it is very well played, and it responds well to the quartet's passionate, muscular approach. As suggested above, the engineering is vivid but perhaps a touch closer than optimal. Although not perfect, this release offers an excellent way to get to know some really impressive and important music, not to mention yet another talented young chamber ensemble. I can recommend it accordingly.

--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com
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Works on This Recording

Quartet for Strings no 1 in C major, Op. 37 by Karol Szymanowski
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1917; Poland 
Quartet for Strings no 2, Op. 56 by Karol Szymanowski
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1927; Poland 
Quartet for Strings in D minor, Op. 49 by Ludomir Rozycki
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 

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