Grechaninov: String Quartet in G, Op. 2; String Quartet in D minor, Op. 70

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COMPOSERS: Grechaninov
LABELS: Dabringhaus und Grimm Scene
WORKS: String Quartet in G, Op. 2; String Quartet in D minor, Op. 70
PERFORMER: Utrecht Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: MDG 603 1157-2
Grechaninov tends to be remembered rather tepidly as a conservative relic from Imperial Russia. Yet his progress as a child of the 1860s went as far as one might reasonably expect, from the healthy absorption of 19th-century Russian masters in the Op. 2 Quartet, his self-styled ‘first large independent work’, to the chromatic experimentation of the D minor Quartet, composed in 1913. They make a pretty pair. The warm, slightly laid-back approach of the likeable Utrecht Quartet fits the simple folksiness of the earlier piece like a delicately fashioned glove, making modest claims for a humble offshoot of Borodin’s glorious Second Quartet, with a discreet dash of Tchaikovskian melancholy.

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A more urgent, forward-moving approach would surely make a better case for the seemingly fragmented gestures of Op. 70’s opening movement; but first violinist Eeva Koskinen’s unaffected way with the Largo melody before fugal earnestness takes over is ideal, and an equally natural robustness highlights Grechaninov’s instinctive if hard-fought goodbye to chromaticism in much the more successful and meaningful of the two finales. Worth investigating, but there’s no doubt that Taneyev is a long way in front of Grechaninov as master of turn-of-the-century Russian chamber music. David Nice