Seppo POHJOLA (b. 1965)
String Quartet No.1 (1990/1) [5:48]
String Quartet No.2 (1995) [15:28]
String Quartet No.3 (2000) [15:04]
String Quartet No.4 (2006) [32:59]
The Kamus Quartet
rec. Akustiikka, Ylivieska, 5-8 August 2010
ALBA ABCD 334 [69:50]
It seems that Seppo Pohjola might become another Alba house composer. This disc
is the fourth released by Alba and entirely devoted to his music. In the meantime
the label has just released yet another disc with his two symphonies: ABCD
Pohjola's varied output includes three symphonies and four string quartets so
far. His four quartets span some fifteen years and provide a fair idea of his
progress. The First was completed in 1991 and is regarded by the composer as
his “real début as a composer”. This compact work in three
concise movements is packed with seemingly inexhaustible invention. The music
sometimes draws on what may be referred to as ‘spectral harmonies’
but the music is never rebarbative but rather gripping in its rugged immediacy.
It work succeeds in suggesting much within its short time span; it is all over
in a little over five minutes. Not a note is wasted.
Composed some four years later the Second Quartet is somewhat more developed
and the idiom now allows for new elements such as melody and a generally slightly
mellower tone. The music remains rather tense and often troubled. It opens resolutely
and the music then unfolds through a series of contrasted sections. The material
is somewhat less concentrated than for its predecessor and tends to expand into
longer periods. It ends with a question mark left unanswered.
There could be no greater contrast between the still anguished Second Quartet
and its successor composed five years later. By comparison one might even say
that the Third Quartet is light-hearted, even humorous at times. The opening
section moves along with jazzy accents - a sort of walking cello bass. A mysterious
section follows until the music resumes as before. These elements, albeit in
varied guise continue to alternate until the music ends unresolved with a coda
played pizzicato that has the music stealing away calmly. Once again there is
that element of humour and lightness of touch.
The Fourth Quartet is a completely different proposition. It is twice as long
as the Second or Third Quartets. Then it falls into two fairly substantial parts
separated by a general pause. The two parts make up a larger whole. The music
is much freer and with more emphasis on expression. It might at times bring
the music of Michael Tippett to mind. You can sample this at the climax of the
first part. The second part seems to continue along the same lines as the preceding
one. The composer, however, succeeds in generating considerable musical variety
through the use of canonic themes which he varies with considerable invention
and imagination. The music never drags but moves on impelled by an irrepressible
I must agree with Jouni Kaipainen who wrote the insert notes that Pohjola's
four string quartets are a landmark in Finnish quartet literature. Pohjola has
certainly not said his last word as far as string quartets are concerned. The
four essays in this often difficult genre amply demonstrate his ability to investigate
the medium and bring forth new ideas. I will await Pohjola’s further additions
to the genre.
This is a release that I particularly enjoyed both for the quality of the music
and the excellent and committed readings by the still young Kamus Quartet. They
patently believe in the music.
Pohjola's first four string quartets in superb sound and readings.