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CR001 - String Quartets

A collection of string quartets by Barber, Pounds and Shostakovich

An engaging and very intimate recording of the three pieces performed by one of the UK's leading Quartets performed at Heydon Church. It is an exceptionally emotional and strong performance of the Shostakovich Quartet No.3. along with a premiere recording of Pounds\' powerful and thought provoking String Quartet.

String Quartet op.11
Samuel Barber (1910-1981)
The String Quartet is a concise work whose confident nature belies the fact that it was a struggle for the composer. Composition began in 1936 but it was not until 1943 that the quartet was performed in the final version. It begins with an assertive statement of the main theme and this is contrasted with a lyrical second theme that is hymn-like in style. The development of the material is continuous throughout the movement ending with a quiet fragmentation of the opening. The Adagio, justly regarded as one of the most emotive movements in music, is built on a single melodic thread. It is perhaps best known in the version for string orchestra, but the original for quartet exposes deep personal qualities that the smaller more intimate ensemble can articulate for the listener. It is well documented that Barber was fond of this piece. As he is known to have said to his friend the cellist Orlando Cole of the Curtis String Quartet, “I have just finished the slow movement of my string quartet today - it’s a knockout!”  The finale follows straight on from the Adagio and is built on material from the first movement. Although shorter, it brings the work to a satisfactory conclusion after the intensity of the second movement.
String Quarttet No.2
Adam Pounds (1954)
The String Quartet no. 2 was composed in the winter of 2003, some twenty-five years after the first, and shares some of its mood and expression with the two other quartets recorded on this disc. It derives most of its material from two main subjects. The first is modal and fugal in style and the second (bar 62) is homophonic and reflective in style. During the passage of the work other episodes are introduced including one that owes something to Tchaikovsky’s ‘Arabian Dance’, one of the composer’s earliest musical experiences. Throughout the work the two themes take on different guises but it is the second theme that is corrupted in different ways. It is heard in an aggressive rhythmic form at bar 156, in a sinister dance-like pizzicato at bar 217 and yet another aggressively mechanical manifestation at bar 319. Throughout the work, the modal first subject retains its dignity and the coda is based on the combination of the two themes which bring the work to a philosophical conclusion, reflecting on the juxtaposition of peace and turmoil.
String Quartet No.3
Dmitri Shostakovich (1906 - 1975)
The first movement opens with a light-hearted theme that has sinister undertones. It is clear from the outset that this will be contorted in various ways during the movement; this includes complex counterpoint and tempo variation. After passages of intensity, it finishes with a coda and concludes with a simple, ironic perfect cadence. The second movement is a scherzo that commences with an aggressive ostinato on the viola which accompanies a tortured theme in the violin.  Tutti repeated chords in the quartet and the uneasy nature of this music gives truth to the subtitle; ‘Rumblings of unrest and anticipation’ insisted upon by the Borodin Quartet in every performance programme. 1946, the year of the quartet’s composition, saw the Soviet Union as one of the leading military powers in the world and the music of the third movement with it’s war-like themes paralleled in the eighth and tenth symphonies make this a gripping experience. This is uncompromising in its aggression; there are no moments of reflection here. The fourth movement is individual and poetic and opens with the quartet in unison followed by the lone voice of the violin. It is a typical feature of Shostakovich’s style, once again supporting his view of the importance of the individual voice in an atmosphere of mass compliance. A coda, supplied by the viola is a most profound utterance. The finale follows without a break and is an interesting mixture of material that is built on a lilting 12/8 figure first heard in the cello. This movement reintroduces the opening theme of the adagio with great intensity. At the ending of this movement we again experience the lone voice of the violin before it drifts into the distance with the use of subtle harmonics.

To the right you can listen to a section of each of the tracks on the CD using the Flash Player and above you will find in depth information about each of the works on the disc by clicking on the respective title.