WORKS: String Quartet No. 2 (Sommer Gesänger); String Quartet; Fratres
PERFORMER: Duke Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: 14752
Pärt’s Fratres is not so much a separate piece as a phenomenon captured in no fewer than eight instrumental versions. This one, for string quartet, is a view of the object that emphasises its misty outline rather than, say, the harmonious resonances of the version for violin and piano. Its magic stems from a unique sense of the remote past in the present. Pärt may not in due course be numbered among the truly greats but, like Satie’s Gymnopédies, his Fratres will endure precisely for its quality of stepping outside the flow of time.
If there’s one quibble about the Duke Quartet’s reading, it is that it can sound too much like a classical string quartet while failing to drain the notes of their last ounce of sostenuto. For Vasks’s Second Quartet, in contrast, the playing captures the composer’s striving after almost orchestral sounds. Of its three nature scenes, the second is an invention in birdsong, the third, ‘Elegie’, a fantasy on the call of whales and dolphins. Erkki-Sven Tüür’s Quartet, in two movements, short and long, pleasantly blends Vasks and Kevin Volans-style minimalism, though for all its vitality, adding little of significance to the precepts of Baltic style. Nicholas Williams