String Quartets Nos 3-5 (arr. orchestra)
Amadeus Chamber Orchestra of Polish Radio/Agnieszka Duczmal, Anna Duczmal-Mróz
Dux DUX 1626 65:40 mins
Born in Warsaw in 1901, Szymon Laks settled in Paris where from the mid-1920s he established a reputation for beautifully crafted music in a neo-classical style. Many of his early works, including the first two string quartets, were unfortunately lost during World War Two – a period during which Laks was interned in Auschwitz. Miraculously he survived this ordeal largely through his activity as conductor of the camp orchestra. But the loss of some of his output means that we have an incomplete picture of his overall development.
Dux has already given us fine recordings of String Quartets 3-5 from the Messages Quartet, but these enormously effective transcriptions for string orchestra should secure an even wider audience. Indeed, the arrangement of the largely upbeat Third Quartet, composed in 1945 and based on Polish folk tunes, is an absolute winner and potentially an ideal companion piece for the Bartók Divertimento. There’s a similar vitality to the Fourth Quartet with its percussive string writing and spicy jazz-inflected harmonies. In contrast, darker resonances hover over the Fifth Quartet, its sparser textures and melancholic passagework at times recalling Shostakovich.
The Amadeus Chamber Orchestra, whose conducting duties are shared between its founder Agnieszka Duczmal and her daughter Anna Duczmal-Mróz, delivers vibrant performances, and the closely engineered recording balance enhances the immediacy of this fascinating and accessible music.