Rochberg, Schwartz

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COMPOSERS: Rochberg,Schwartz
LABELS: Metier
WORKS: String Quartet No. 3
PERFORMER: Kreutzer Quartet
Polystylism, the mixing of the styles of different periods or genres in a single work, is now familiar from the music of Schnittke, Holloway, Bolcom and many others. But the Third Quartet by the American George Rochberg can surprise and disturb as much today as when it was new in 1972, with its mixture of Messiaen, Mahler, Bartók and modernism, wrapped around a central set of variations in A major in the tradition of the late Beethoven quartets (though sounding more like Brahms). The piece prompts complex questions about the nature of musical creation and communication. But the biggest question is ‘does it work?’; and this performance by the British Kreutzer Quartet, by turns blisteringly aggressive and glacially calm, certainly succeeds in suggesting the intended reconciliation of diversity. The Kreutzer adds a set of variations by another American, Elliott Schwartz, in which the stylistic contrasts seem to grow more organically out of the nature of the theme, to convincing effect. The recording is excellent, with a real feeling of intimacy in the quieter music.