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Dvořák • Kurtág: String Quintet No. 3 etc

Kim Kashkashian (violin); Parker Quartet (ECM)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Dvořák • Kurtág
Dvořák: String Quintet No. 3 ‘American’; Kurtág: Six Moments musicaux; Officium breve in memoriam…
Kim Kashkashian (violin); Parker Quartet
ECM 485 5984   57:55 mins


Paul Griffiths’s programme note makes the case for pairing these composers, but I suspect that for many listeners they will be strange bedfellows. The Moments musicaux show Kurtág’s uncanny ability to create and sustain an immediate mood: most of them come in at under three minutes, but feel much bigger in their emotional reach, helped by the extraordinary dedication and understated virtuosity of the Parker Quartet. Whether it’s in the incisive attack of the opening Invocation, the passionate mourning in the memorial to the pianist György Sebők, or the precise harmonics in Rappel des oiseaux, they identify completely with the music.

Kashkashian joins for the Dvořák, which is less successful overall despite the continued technical ease of the playing. The bright sound doesn’t always have the depth and weight that the Romantic style needs, and phrasing could be smoother and more generous at times. But the variations which form the Larghetto are neatly paced and balanced, especially in the faster and lighter sections, and the Scherzo and Finale dance nimbly.

It’s quite a shock to return to Kurtág, and the 15 pieces which make up the Officium breve, a memorial to the composer Endre Szervánszky. Reminiscences of one of his early tonal works surface from time to time, as do direct references to Webern, and there’s a cumulative power in the juxtaposition of the disparate elements. Movements are even shorter than in Moments musicaux, and find the Parker Quartet again in their element, with an enormous tonal and dynamic range.


Martin Cotton