String Quartets Nos 2, 5 & 8
Chandos CHAN 20158 68:24 mins
It’s a mark of the increasing levels of recognition accorded to Mieczysław Weinberg in recent years that we now have the prospect of savouring ongoing recorded cycles of his 17 string quartets from two different ensembles as an alternative to the much-acclaimed pioneering set by the Quatuor Danel released over ten years ago by CPO. First out of the blocks was the Silesian Quartet, who has thus far released three excellent discs on the Accord label. This Polish group is now joined by the Arcadia Quartet, who make a very auspicious impression for their first Weinberg entrée that brings together three of the composer’s most accessible contributions to the genre, all recorded in a warm-sounding acoustic.
In their illuminating booklet notes, the Arcadia Quartet players explain the joys they experienced from playing these works for the first time. They describe Weinberg’s music as sounding ‘like a glow of light surrounded by the darkness of the unknown: we felt instantly captivated by his deeply inspired melodies and perfectly shaped structures.’
The Arcadia’s evident enthusiasm for the music is perfectly conveyed here with playing that maximises the emotional range explored in each work, as well as exploiting to the full the music’s tonal and textural varieties and its underlying sense of unease. These contrasts are placed in sharp relief when comparing the relentless Bartókian ferocity they achieve in the rhythmically dynamic Scherzo from the Fifth Quartet with the easygoing geniality that is projected in the opening movement of the Second, or the austere solemnity that characterises the slow sections of the Eighth.