Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Music Webmaster
Len Mullenger:

String Quartet No. 2 in A Minor op. 23 (1896 rev 1929) 32.38
String Quartet No. 4 in F Sharp Minor op. 35 (1907) 45.14
Zapolski Quartet
rec Danish Radio 1998 DA CAPO MARCO POLO 8.224048 77.54

Glass took a different, and for his music less successful, route from his contemporary and countryman Carl Nielsen. Glass with a strong creative faculty, and no mean tunesmith, occupied the late-romantic territory. He could not be considered a modernist. Glass is a confident exponent of the heartland established by Tchaikovsky and Grieg. He might well be regarrded as a reaxctionary but his way with thematic invention is strong and individualistic.

There are four Glass string quartets of which the 'true' no. 2 has been lost. The one labelled no. 2 on this disc was in fact the third. First written in 1896 it was reworked in 1929. Whatever the number the A Minor work is tenebrous, romantic, but not one of blooming confidence. The mood is twilit and on the darker margins of twilight. You may think of Grieg but with an early 20th century accent. At times the music seems to picture a populated street palely lit by candles and humming with amorous intrigue and threat. The quartet strikes the listener more as an exploration of mood rather than a grand propulsive musical statement. In the finale a Brucknerian tension (lit up by some taut and quiet writing) is undeniable.

The fourth and final quartet is as big as the Fourth Symphony (to be recorded by Danacord). The first movement has a stronger propellant than the A Minor work but tends, very easily, towards the sort of reflection typified by Miaskovsky. This continues amid the ghostly lanterns of the adagio. Much of the writing is Nordicly succulent and the hesitant sorrowing serenading of the adagio cuts a fine figure not that far distant from Wagner's Siegfried Idyll and Atterburg's desperately under-rated Third Suite. The scherzando takes a while to get under full steam but once it finds its feet it has a sturdy Dvorakian charm - restrained rather than relaxed. The martial glint of the allegro marciale is not about the dazzle of the parade ground but relates to nocturnal manoeuvres in which the focus is rather on the murderous edge on the unsheathed bayonets than the spit and polish of military ceremony.

There is nothing here to match the world-shaking mastery of the Fifth Symphony. These quartets are introspective and intimate - powerful as mood portraits. They are well supported by multi-lingual notes and recorded sound.


Rob Barnett




Rob Barnett

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