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Alexander GRECHANINOV (1864-1956)
String Quartets Vol. 2
String Quartet No. 3 in C minor Op.75 (1915) [37:06]
String Quartet No. 4 in F Op.124 (1929) [31:24]
Utrecht String Quartet
rec. Cath. Church, Delft, May and October 2005 DDD

Grechaninov was born in Moscow a year before Sibelius and also died in New York a year before Sibelius. He was taught by Rimsky-Korsakov. His music did not migrate far from his roots and continued to write in that style well after the 1917 revolution had led to exile first in France and then in the USA. A prolific composer in all the usual genres, his reputation seems to rest mainly on choral music and to be rather tainted by suggestions of lack of originality. Certainly, by comparison with his near contemporary Sibelius, his style did not develop much, meaning it is rather hard to believe the fourth quartet was written as late as 1929. But, listening to this disc, I sometimes found the music hard to place and was not continually reminded of other composers, surely one sign of an original voice.
There are four Grechaninov string quartets and this offering completes the Utrecht Quartetís cycle. The previous disc was well-received by Michael Cookson three years ago (see review). Both works are in four movements with the slow movement placed second. They are fairly conventional but well-crafted and pleasant listening.
The third quartet opens with a slow introduction which immediately captures an ambiguity of mood which is a hallmark of both works. A transition by accelerando leads to the Allegro which opens almost classically in the major. The textures increase in complexity as does the tension, and it soon becomes obvious that this is very fine quartet playing. After a questioning coda, the slow movement opens in richly melodic and bittersweet vein. There is a restless and rather disturbing central section following which the opening material returns. The scherzo is less inspired but the finale logically complements the opener and the conclusion is ultimately high-spirited.
The fourth quartet opens with reference to the initial motif of Beethovenís fifth symphony. The mood is often pastoral and the first movement surprisingly brief. The second is variously documented as a Moderato assai and Maestoso assai Ė I would suspect the latter is correct. In this movement the influence of Grechaninovís forbears is pervasive but the music is memorable. The scherzo that follows catches the ear rather more effectively than in the third quartet. The finale has a slow introduction leading to some very lively if rather lightweight writing.
Grechaninovís cause is very well served here and I have no reservations about the playing of the Utrecht quartet or the recording. Well worth hearing.
Patrick C Waller
see also review by Jonathan Woolf





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