Hilding Rosenberg (1892 – 1985), the patriarch of 20th century Swedish music, wrote altogether 14 string quartets , the first in 1920 and the final more than half a century later. This makes him one of the most prolific composers of chamber music in Scandinavia. Also artistically, by virtue of his very personal approach, his power of expression and his technical mastery, Rosenberg’s production is truly outstanding.
This is the the first CD in a series of 6, also available in a boxed set. It contains the quartets No. 1, 6, and 12 performed by the Kyndel Quratet, The Gotland Quartet and The Copenhagen String Quartet.
Hilding Rosenberg (1892-1985), the patriarch of 20th century Swedish music, wrote altogether 14 string quartets, the first in 1920 and the final more than half a century later. This makes him one of the most prolific composers of chamber music in Scandinavia. Also artistically, by virtue of his very personal approach, his power of expression and his technical mastery, Rosenberg’s production is truly outstanding. This CD contains the Quartets No. 2, 5 and 8. The participating musicians are: The Lysell Quartet and The Gotland Quartet.
The highly personal style of American composer Benjamin Lees lends his music the lofty grandeur and sardonic wit, not only of Shostakovich but also of the Cubist and Surrealist artists, all of whom he so admires. Lees, who also shares Britten’s refined sense of harmony, delights in contrasts and surprises, enthralling the listener at every turn from the lyrical to the burlesque, the romantic to the brusque. His fifth string quartet was chosen by Chamber Music America as one of its 101 Great Ensemble Works.
Gloria Coates (b. 1938) writes gloriously expressive music that's also sometimes disorienting. That's meant as a compliment. She has fashioned a mesmerizing and unique language from hovering harmonic clouds and her signature gesture -- the glissando (sliding pitches). And in a work like the String Quartet No. 7 for strings and organ, the long downward glides mix with brazen and spooky organ chords and Charles Ives-like hymn quotes to create an alluring aural vertigo.
Brett Dean is not shy about revealing what his music is ‘about’. Whether inspired by certain individuals (as in Epitaphs), or by an ecological or human disaster (as in his String Quartet No. 1, on the now all too topical plight of refugees), Dean’s works are usually – perhaps invariably – driven by extra-musical narratives. Rather than tease out any innate structural puzzles or tensions, his music typically falls into short little dramatic narratives – no movement on this disc lasts as long as eight minutes, many of them rather less than five. The most obviously successful work here is Quartet No. 2, ‘And once I played Ophelia’, effectively a dramatic scena. Its soprano soloist is no mere extra voice (as in Schoenberg’s Second Quartet) but the leading protagonist. Allison Bell’s genuinely affecting performance is backed by the Doric Quartet’s expressionist scampering and sustained harmonies, the strings occasionally coming to the fore in the manner of a Schumann-style song postlude.
"A triumphant start to what heralds to be one of the best Shostakovich quartet cycles imaginable. (…) Highly recommended." 5/5 ~sa-cd.net