String Quartet No. 1; Piano Quintet
Engergård Quartet; Olli Mustonen (piano)
Lawo LWC1243 43:03 mins
Furious cross-rhythms and accented repeated notes relent to hymnal lyricism in Olli Mustonen’s First String Quartet. But the peaceful third movement is an anomaly: the tension soon returns in a restless Impetuoso finale – the original melody now peppered with triumphant descent-like violin melodies. The Finnish composer describes a journey from darkness to light in the 2016 work; while the psychological aspects are clearly obvious – pacing bass lines, anxious tremolos – there is a sense of physical travelling, too, across craggy landscapes and into fantasy worlds. The Engegård Quartet, who premiered the piece at the 2017 Lofoten International Chamber Music Festival in Norway, stomp, pout, beg and cry, demonstrating elite ensemble abilities in the frequent unison sections (particularly in the second and third movements).
Mustonen is the composer-pianist in the 2014 Piano Quintet, which opens with a Rite of Spring-ish Drammatico e passionatomovement. The Stravinsky-inspired percussive melodies are passed between piano and strings in an extended duet (the quartet is once again treated as a single instrument, with multiple unison parts), imbued with dramatic tension. The central passacaglia-like movement is based on a chromatic theme that gives the music an atonal flavour. Sensitive interplay between piano and strings lifts the quieter moments, which are well balanced in this recording. Barely recognisable material from the first movement woven into the third is the loose thread that holds the work together; moving from elegiac to euphoric, the Quintet ends with a surprisingly joyful flourish.