Mansurianís numbered string quartets were
written in quick succession, both as tributes to recently deceased
The String Quartet No.1, in
three movements of broadly equal length, was written between
1983 and 1984 and is dedicated to the memory of David Chandschian.
The outer, mostly slow movements are elegiac and sorrowful.
They frame a slightly more lively central movement, although
the music remains restrained rather than angry and moves at
a very moderate pace. All three movements are primarily melodic,
subdued in expression but warmly expressive, albeit in a quiet,
intimate and undemonstrative manner.
Quartet No.2, completed soon after its predecessor and
dedicated to the memory of Eduard Chagagartzian, is also in
three movements, ďall of them slowĒ. It has much in common with
its predecessor. In this piece, the composer was somewhat influenced
by ancient Armenian music (as so much else in his output) as
well as by a song by Komitas, the latter another lasting influence
on Mansurianís music. The music is again elegiac in character,
bidding a deeply felt, peaceful farewell to the composerís friend.
Both string quartets
are beautiful, profoundly moving pieces of great consolatory
power and expressive strength, albeit in discreet and introspective.
However, for all its apparent simplicity, Mansurianís music
cannot be compared with what is now often referred to as Holy
Minimalism or with, say, Kancheliís music that is often prone
to dynamic extremes. Because of its predominantly melodic character,
Mansurian is more linear and more coherent from a stylistic
point of view. Some would define it as single-minded. Although
this is partly true, it does not lack in contrast in spite of
its apparent stylistic unity. In both quartets contrast is achieved
through increased harmonic tension rather than by huge dynamic
The short Testament,
dedicated to Manfred Eicher, is a simple strophic song, though
Ė again Ė its apparent simplicity is quite deceptive as is the
musicís superficially archaic tone.
These splendid performances
were recorded under the composerís supervision and have a strong
ring of authenticity. They are not likely to be superseded anytime
In short, a superb
release, well up to ECMís consistently high standards. On the
downside the short playing time is deplorable. I wonder why
the earlier Interieur of 1972 - also for string
quartet and lasting some eight minutes - as well as some other
chamber work had not been recorded. This is a lost opportunity.
That said, this very fine release will appeal to those who are
already familiar with Mansurianís music, but also to all who
respond to deeply felt and sincere music of this type.