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.
are four Grechaninov string quartets and this offering completes
the Utrecht Quartet’s 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
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.
fourth quartet opens with reference to the initial motif
of Beethoven’s 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 – I would suspect the latter is correct. In this
movement the influence of Grechaninov’s 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.
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
Gerard Hoffnung CDs
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