WORKS: String Quartet No. 1 (The Kreutzer Sonata), arr. for string orchestra
PERFORMER: Australian CO/Richard Tognetti
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 10016
Performing a complex string quartet effectively with orchestral forces might seem like a tall order, particularly when you’re faced with the kaleidoscope of constantly fluctuating tempi and moods that make up Janácek’s First Quartet. Yet Richard Tognetti’s transcription, brilliantly executed by the Australian Chamber Orchestra, is convincing in almost every respect, the performers effecting a miraculous unanimity of ensemble while achieving the necessary element of spontaneity and urgency that underpins the work’s narrative. A good example is the opening of the third movement, where the sudden interruption of a subdued folk melody with ferocious sul ponticello effects drives the music to an increasingly high fever-pitch of intensity.
The other two quartets also work remarkably well in these arrangements. In his expansive ‘From the Monkey Mountains’, Pavel Haas offers a veritable catalogue of vivid pictorial effects, such as the glorious chromatic groans and squeaks of the rickety horse and cart in the second movement, which seem ideally suited to the larger and richer textures of the string orchestra. Likewise, the juxtaposition of dreamy impressionism and Bartókian percussiveness in the Szymanowski is projected with a level of compelling immediacy that makes one instantly forget that the work was originally conceived for only four players.