Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line

Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


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Peteris VASKS (b.1946)
String Quartet No. 4 (1999) [32. 10]
Kronos Quartet.
rec. DDD
WARNER NONESUCH 7559-79695-2 [32.10]

This is a CD single - an admirable format for its singleness of vision if not always its economy. Similar exemplary ventures have come from NMC and Altarus. The disc also acts as a wondrously complementary accompaniment to the Conifer CD of the first three quartets (75605 51334 2) sporadically still available on Amazon.

This scorching yet solace-filled five movement work was commissioned for the Kronos in 2000 and premiered in Paris. After a first movement of ineffable stillness comes the vitriol-blast of the Shostakovichian Toccata (like the acidic scherzo material in the 11th and 12th symphonies). Without drawing breath, this segues into the expressive ruminations of the Chorale. This is succeeded by the return of the breathless abrasion of the Toccata. The Meditation returns to the quietude of the Elegy with tender singing solo lines from the violin. These sing, Tormis-like, the folksong Who were they who sang? That stratospherically-aspiring melody carries some of the burden of the Finzi Introit. If you like that work and indeed Vasks’ own Violin Concerto you will want this piece too. Among the Vasks fingerprints heard in the two outer movements are slaloming violin lines typical of Penderecki's Threnody (though here infinitely gentler) and of Hovhaness's Fra Angelico.

Notes are by the composer.

In a world fraught with tragedy this meditation on the world's violence and its healingly consolatory songs is not to be missed. Vasks, rather like Urmis Sisask, looks to the heavens and there finds benison and transcendence.

Rob Barnett


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