Stravinsky, Szymanowski: String Quartet No. 1; String Quartet No. 2

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COMPOSERS: Stravinsky,Szymanowski
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: String Quartet No. 1; String Quartet No. 2
PERFORMER: Goldner String Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: 8.554315

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Szymanowski’s two string quartets cover a remarkable range of style and emotion. No. 1 was written during the First World War and encapsulates many characteristics of what might be described as Szymanowski’s middle period: warm lyricism at the start of the slow movement, the ecstatic, mystical qualities, which are such an appealing feature of his operatic masterpiece King Roger, alongside an almost expressionist venom in the first, and mercurial humour in the last.

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The Second Quartet, composed ten years later in 1927, is still more highly coloured – just try the superbly ear-catching opening of the first movement. The preoccupation with Polish folk music of the Tatra region which dominates Szymanowski’s last period of composition emerges strongly in the remaining two movements. Both works are a tribute to the astonishing fertility of Szymanowski’s muse; they certainly bear comparison with many classics of the 20th-century repertoire and deserve to be heard far more frequently. The Goldner Quartet’s performances are a model of conviction and insight; indeed, it would be hard to imagine a more persuasive advocate of this repertoire. The same level of excellence is displayed in the small but mighty handful that forms Stravinsky’s total contribution to quartet literature, also recorded here.