The Penderecki Quartet - Polish String Quartets

Wednesday 1st February 1995
The Penderecki Quartet - Polish String Quartets

STYLE: Classical
RATING 5 5 5 5 5
LABEL: United Recordings 88014

Reviewed by John Irvine

Three of the works on this disc are by Krszystof Penderecki, who featured in The Living Composers' Society' series two years ago. However, this disc only shows that Penderecki's gifts do not lie in the field of chamber music in general or string quartets in particular. This is made painfully obvious by the inclusion of quartets by fellow-Poles Aleksander Lason and Grazyna Bacewicz. "The Broken Thought" (a recent piece: 1988) promises much in its opening, but lasts a brief two and a half minutes and barely whets the appetite. The "First" and "Second Quartets" (1960 and 1968 respectively) stand as outmoded examples of what passed for avant-garde music in the 60s: the instruments are struck rather than played and frankly, Greybeard Cummings' daughter Joanna could probably write something better. Lason's "Second Quartet" (1987) is a quite different matter, a 20-minute tour-de-force, pushing the players to their technical limits; echoing and droning string passages contrast with more lyrical sections, each part seemingly asking questions, probing and searching, but never quite finding answers. Lason's quarter touches on several emotions and a heartfelt performance is given by the Penderecki Quartet. To round off the collection Bacewicz's third quartet (1947) is a light, charming, almost Mozartian piece displaying the composer's neo-classical tastes. The pieces by Bacewicz and Lason more than make up for the disappointment of the Penderecki works, but overall a rather uneven collection.

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.

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