Vasks: String Quartet No. 2 (Songs of the Summer); String Quartet No. 3

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LABELS: Caprice
WORKS: String Quartet No. 2 (Songs of the Summer); String Quartet No. 3
PERFORMER: Riga String Quartet
In the music of Peteris Vasks, whose Second Symphony was heard at last year’s Proms, nature assumes her time-honoured role as a subject both of imitation and of philosophical speculation. Songs of the Summer, his Second String Quartet, opens with tremulous cries on the solo strings. The ensuing paragraph builds remorselessly over repeated bass notes until, spilling over into the second movement, it attains the rhapsodic freedom of birds in flight. The strength of his diatonic language lies in his control of its highly detailed foreground. If the melancholy of the finale seems encapsulated in individual gestures on the borders of silence and sound, then this is even more so of the first movement of his Third Quartet, played with no less power and dedication by the Riga Quartet. Composed in 1995, ten years after its predecessor, it’s concerned with expectation, with the transitory and the eternal (with the title Musica adventus, the piece also exists in an orchestral version). The last movement embodies purified sorrow: ‘There is peace on earth,’ says the composer, but not without the disruption of the folk-dance style of his native Latvia, heard in the second movement and in the fiery music that precedes the resolution. Nicholas Williams