Prokofiev: String Quartet No. 1 in B minor; String Quartet No. 2 in F; Overture on Hebrew Themes

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COMPOSERS: Prokofiev
LABELS: Hyperion Helios
WORKS: String Quartet No. 1 in B minor; String Quartet No. 2 in F; Overture on Hebrew Themes
PERFORMER: Coull String Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: CDH 55032 Reissue (1991)
Prokofiev’s two quartets contain a great deal of attractive music, but that isn’t enough: in this century in particular, the quartet has become associated more with intellectual or philosophical utterance than with entertainment. That doesn’t preclude emotional content, but Prokofiev can’t match the profundities of Shostakovich, even in the long concluding Andante in the First Quartet, where he is clearly trying to make a ‘big’ statement but succeeds only in sounding overwrought, even in the Coull Quartet’s fine performance. If Beethoven is the acknowledged model behind this quartet, the Second leans heavily on folk tunes which Prokofiev discovered in the Caucasus. But there isn’t the integration of the folk style that makes Bartok so satisfying: this is more of a suite of tunes got up in sophisticated musical dress. The most convincing music is the unassuming Overture, where Prokofiev’s musical material and compositional aims are on the same plane. Martin Cotton

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