COMPOSERS: Janacek,Szymanowski
LABELS: Chandos
ALBUM TITLE: Janácek,Szymanowski
WORKS: Janácek: String Quartets Nos 1 (Kreutzer Sonata) & 2 (Intimate Letters)Szymanowski:String Quartets Nos 1 & 2
PERFORMER: Schoenberg Quartet
Given that they were near contemporaries with impeccable Slavic credentials and an interest in folksong, it is surprising how dissimilar Janá?ek and Szymanowski are in style. The opening of Szymanowski’s First Quartet, completed in 1917, anticipates the highly scented world of his opera, King Roger; the second, written ten years later occasionally shows the composer’s affinity with folk music, but also has moments of reflective sophistication, notably in the fugal introduction to the finale. There is little call for reflection amid the visceral intensity of the Janá?ek string quartets; written in the final phase of his maturity, both works are energised by his passionate love for a much younger woman.


The Schoenberg Quartet’s reading of the Szymanowski quartets is near ideal. While always expressive, they manage to make superb sense of the composer’s contrapuntal writing and seem to relish the more challenging excursions into a surprisingly dissonant sound world in the

second quartet.


Their way with the Janácek quartets seems rather more deferential. In the first movement of the Kreutzer Sonata Quartet they do not make enough of the dramatic contrasts and parts of the second movement are a touch mechanical. They certainly do not duck the searing, frantic figuration which makes the third movement so disturbing, and their performance of the Second Quartet has both passion and a clear sense of structure. Though very well recorded, their performances do not really approach the ?kampa Quartet’s marvellous renditions on Supraphon; the Schoenberg Quartet’s way with the Szymanowski’s quartets, however, is highly recommendable. Jan Smaczny