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COMPOSERS: Hallgrimsson
LABELS: Eye of the Storm
WORKS: Four Movements for String Quartet; Offertorio for Solo Violin; String Quartet No. 1; Different performances of the two works for quartet; Solitaire for Cello Solo
PERFORMER: Kreutzer String Quartet, Peter Sheppard (violin), Philip Sheppard (cello)
The Edinburgh-domiciled Icelander Haflidi Hallgrímsson is a notable cellist; these discs suggest he’s also one of the finest composers currently writing for strings. Taxing, virtuosic, deeply felt, his music seems conceived entirely in terms of the instruments, with an intimate knowledge of their possibilities throughout the entire gamut of colour and resonance.


Though they could only have been written in the late years of this century, Hallgrimsson’s works should appeal to admirers of Bartók (the Largo and Finale of String Quartet No.1) or Shostakovich (the first of the Four Movements in memory of the pianist Bryn Turley; the last seems to breathe the ‘air from another planet’ of Schoenberg’s Second Quartet). Shapely, passionate and utterly honest in expression, the two quartets admirably frame the eloquent existential monologues of the two solo pieces.


Eye of the Storm offer two complete (but not strikingly different) performances of each quartet, in line with their policy of a ‘more flexible approach’ than restriction to a single interpretation. The tension of a real performance, with minimal editing, comes across very clearly. The dedication and commitment of the members of the Kreutzer Quartet are palpable thoughout these superbly played and recorded discs. Calum MacDonald