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Krzysztof MEYER (b.1943) String Quartets - volume 2
String Quartet no.9, op.74 (1990) [24:35]
String Quartet no.11, op.95 (2001) [15:21]
String Quartet no.12, op.103 (2005) [36:27]
Wieniawski String Quartet (Jaroslaw Zolnierczyk (violin I); Miroslaw Bocek (violin II); Lech Balaban (viola); Maciej Mazurek (cello))
rec. Radio Merkury, Poznan, Poland, 15-18 February 2010; 14-15 May 2010 (op.74). DDD
NAXOS 8.572656 [76:24]

Experience Classicsonline

This is a follow-up to the Wieniawski Quartet's debut on Naxos in a first volume of Polish composer Krzysztof Meyer's String Quartets - see review. The Quartet's four members are drawn from the ranks of Polish Radio's Amadeus Chamber Orchestra, themselves veterans of numerous recordings for Polish label CD Accord in particular, but also of Mozart's Horn Concertos for Naxos a few years back (review).
The Eleventh and Twelfth Quartets are Meyer's latest works in the genre. The Eleventh is a relatively brief piece in a single movement, whereas the Twelfth is a massive work in nine movements. The Wieniawski Quartet begin their quality recital, however, with the Ninth, which lies somewhere between the two in scale and its five movements.
Meyer is a published authority on Shostakovich and completed his unfinished opera The Gambler, subsequently premiered in 1984. Not unexpectedly, and by Meyer's own free admission, Shostakovich looms large in these Quartets - no bad thing. The first Naxos volume noted Meyer's love of Bartók's chamber music, and the influence of his Quartets too is also in evidence. Given then these two eminent precursors, it comes as no surprise to discover that it is Meyer's fellow countryman and teacher Krzysztof Penderecki's later Quartets - 'Der Unterbrochene Gedanke' and his Third - with perhaps bits of Schnittke's own grittier Third, which are among the closest cognates - compare recent review of Penderecki - though it is worth bearing in mind too that Meyer's Twelfth predates Penderecki's Third by a good three years. Like Penderecki, Meyer dabbled in avant-garde techniques and forms in the early stages of his career, before eventually taking a greater interest in the rich and vast heritage of art music.
In any case, all three Quartets are intelligent and emotive, with a distinctive eastern European voice. This is expressive of melancholy and hope, restlessness and emptiness, darkness with glimpses of light that goes right to the heart of the turbulent human psyche. The lurching, searching character of the emotionally intense Eleventh Quartet perfectly encapsulates this, and it belongs to the finest single-movement Quartets of its time.
These are not first recordings: the Wilanów Quartet have recorded all Meyer's Quartets to date, initially in the Nineties on Pro Viva - requiring some online detective work to track down - with the Eleventh and Twelfth appearing three or four years ago on the Polish Acte Préalable label (AP0146). There have been one or two other recordings of individual Quartets too, but then there ought to be - these are important and substantial works that belong in every serious contemporary quartet's repertory.
Sound quality is very good - occasional traffic movement is very faint. The Wieniawskis are rather closely miked, but to their great credit the engineers have avoided picking up the inhalations of any of the players - something of a rarity in quartet recordings! The booklet provides intelligent, informative notes by Richard Whitehouse.
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