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 339

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 inner logic. 

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. 

Hubert Culot

Pohjola's first four string quartets in superb sound and readings.