Golijov: Tenebrae; Janáček: String Quartet No. 1 (Kreutzer Sonata); Mendelssohn: String Quartet No. 6, Op. 80; Prokofiev: String Quartet No. 2
Signum Classics SIGCD 551 80:50 mins
This fine new disc from the Calidore Quartet was sparked by the turbulence of 2016: what, the quartet found themselves wondering, was ‘our purpose as musicians during this time of social upheaval?’. In answer, the ensemble began work on an album about conflict and resilience, featuring four composers who found themselves writing music amid intense personal or external turmoil, from the threat of Nazism to the despair of a loveless marriage. Whatever doubts one may have about the meaningful social impact of an album of mostly canonic string quartets, this is nonetheless a commendable venture, thoughtfully programmed and featuring strong performances throughout.
Prokofiev’s String Quartet No. 2 was premiered in 1942 and composed while the composer was evacuated to the Soviet region of Kabardino-Balkar Republic amid the advance of the German army. The Calidore Quartet find a wonderful lightness in the dance rhythms and folk melodies that infuse the work, although the earthy opening movement feels perhaps a little too polished. There is no shortage of dramatic punch in this performance of the Kreutzer Sonata, however, where the quartet bring all the sting of Janáček’s extraordinary score vividly to life. In contrast, Osvaldo Golijov’s Tenebrae (2000) conjures a mood of serene melancholy, which the Calidore Quartet render with sublime sweetness. The disc closes with a top-flight rendition of Mendelssohn’s Quartet No. 6. Written in the aftermath of Fanny Mendelssohn’s sudden death, the piece burns with a brutal energy, and the Calidore Quartet successfully capture the emotional charge of this powerful work, bringing Resilience to a suitably stirring close.