Roland Leistner-Mayer was born in 1945 in Graslitz, Bohemia. He studied composition, piano and percussion in Munich, and now works as a freelance composer in Brannenburg, Germany. The three string quartets here, numbered 5, 6 and 7 are fairly recent compositions, written between 2014 and 2016. In them the composer eschews avant-garde trends, taking a more individual stance. Each is conventionally structured: 5 and 7 each with four movements, 6 with seven. The rhapsodic mien of the music is very reminiscent of Leoš Janáček, who was clearly an influence, and the tonal cast of the music makes it accessible. The conductor Christoph Schlüren is quoted in the booklet as saying that Leistner-Mayer "strives for a comprehensible music without clinging to well-established styles, pandering to nostalgic wishful thinking or paying homage to non-committal postmodernism ... (he) has searched unwaveringly for the simplest and most direct expression of the internal necessities ... Only the musical essence counts; there is no sound for sound's sake".
The oscillating whispers which usher in the opening movement of the String Quartet No. 5 grow in intensity, serving as a prelude to a more energetic section, where the music literally hits the ground running. There's no let up, and the momentum is carried forward into the Scherzo, which is rhythmically accented. It is only when we arrive at the Adagio molto third movement that there's some easing of tensions. Here, the four instrumentalists partake in an intimate dialogue. The finale blends fugal elements with buoyant lyricism.
The Sixth Quartet, is titled 'Seven Unbrave Bagatelles' and closely corresponds to the 'Seven Brave Pieces for Piano', which the composer wrote in 2012. Both works address the questions: Who are we? Where do we come from? Where are we going? What are we expecting? and What awaits us? The work has seven short movements, and some have titles: ‘Behind the Window’ (2), ‘View of the Mountain’ (3), ‘View of the Moat’ (4) and ‘Glimpse through the Gateway’ (6). Of the three quartets, this one seems to me the most indebted to Janáček in its idiom.
The Seventh Quartet bears the title 'Ariadne Quartet'. The reference is to Greek mythology, where Ariadne’s thread assists Theseus in finding his way back to the entrance of the Minotaur's labyrinth. The Quartet deals with retracing and recollection. The work opens with a sombre, pensive slow movement, occasionally interrupted by forceful interjections. A lively Scherzo comes next. The third movement has a dirge-like tread, underscoring a narrative which is not at peace with itself. The last movement has energy and forward thrust.
The Sojka Quartet are very much at home in these attractive and compelling scores and truly attuned to the idiom. They have been superbly recorded, and their performances are recommended without reservation.
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