Love and Death
Turina: The Bullfighter’s Prayer (arr. string quartet); Kurtág: Signs, Games and Messages; Officium breve in memoriam Andreae Szervansky, Op. 28; Janáček: String Quartet No. 1, JW VII/8 ‘Kreuzer Sonata’; Schubert: String Quartet No. 14 in D minor, D810 ‘Death and the Maiden’
Navarra String Quartet
Orchid Classics ORC100135 79:03 mins
The Navarra Quartet cover the gamut of Love and Death, from passion to mourning to murder and beyond, in this new recording which is, in the listening, far less generic than its title might suggest. This stimulating mix of Kurtág, Janáček, Puccini and Schubert opens with Turina’s La oración del torero (Bullfighter’s Prayer) and closes with Schubert’s Death and the Maiden string quartet, and even the most darkly melancholic works are suffused with the light, expressive touch of the Navarra.
Turina’s Prayer is an evocative, tenderly played opener, the antithesis of the drama of the bullring, the calm before the storm, the balance of sound exquisite. There are two Kurtág fragments fruitfully interspersed among the more substantial works: the first his ‘Ligatura Y’, which performs as its title suggests, tentative, reserved, a link between Turina’s prayer and Puccini’s mournful Crisantemi – a string quartet written in the aftermath of the death of a friend, and inspired by the quintessential flower of Italian funerals.
Janáček’s String Quartet No. 1, inspired by Tolstoy’s novella of adultery and murder, Kreutzer Sonata, and revolving around Beethoven’s sonata of the same name, is played with a fine balance between intensity and lightness. The diversity of Janáček’s expression is fully explored, from the skittering of strings to the frantic, hellish scratching of the third movement.
Another brief, poignant Kurtág – the ‘Arioso’ from his Officium breve in memory of dead friends – ends in mid-phrase, before Schubert’s Death and the Maiden, ending this dynamic disc with vitality and passion.
Sarah Urwin Jones