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String Quartet No. 3 in E flat Minor, Op. 30
String Quartet in B Flat Major, (1865)
Four Movements for String Quartet

New Haydn Quartet, Budapest - Janos Horvath, Peter Sarosi,(violins) Gyorgy Porzolt,(viola) and Gabor Magyar (cello)
recorded 2-5/10/95, in the Unitarian Church, Budapest. DDD
Naxos 8.550848 [55.12]
 Amazon UK  

This disc is the second in the series of two which completes the Tchaikovsky String Quartets for Naxos. Indeed, this disc was recorded at the same sessions as the first disc from the same artists, already reviewed. The impecunious collector may now buy all of Tchaikovsky's works for sting quartet for less than a tenner.

Of the two discs, this one may be likely to be less popular because of the relative popularity of the first quartet on the first disc. However, unlike other competitive versions, this has another miniature work for string quartet, (the Four Movements for String Quartet), Others simply have the quartets, plus either one of the miniatures, or either the "Souvenir de Florence". This disc is therefore more likely to attract those who like to listen to something a little out of the ordinary.

String Quartet No. 3 was completed some in March 1876, and so was still a fairly early work. It was performed privately two weeks after it was completed and again publicly at the Moscow Conservatory in three separate occasions. It was very well received by the audiences, indeed many of them being extremely moved by the lovely slow movement. It consists of the normal four movements, the first being prefaced by a slow introduction. The second is a gentle scherzo which captivates these particular ears. There then follows the slow movement. This is not as immediately arresting as its cousin in the first quartet, but is none the less effective. The quartet rounds off with a lively and energetically written finale.

If the overall feeling of the Quartet is somewhat sombre, it is maybe pertinent to remember that it was written primarily in memory of Ferdinand Laub. This Czech violinist had been extremely active in Moscow, both as violin professor, and also as first violinist of the Russian Music Society Quartet. The quartet had been responsible for the first performances of both of Tchaikovsky's earlier quartets. He had died the year before the third quartet was written, and this factor alone had obviously wrought its effect upon the audiences at the first few performances of the work.

The remaining works are of lesser calibre. The String Quartet in B Flat is a very early work, written whilst Tchaikovsky was still a student. It was written some six years before the First Quartet, and has never been considered by the composer as part of his string quartet works. The same applies to the four movements for string quartet, written in 1863 and 1864. Here we have even earlier works, written while still a student of Rubenstein at the Conservatory.

The four players play very well together and all parts within these two quartets are able to be heard clearly and effectively. I therefore have no qualms whatsoever about recommending this disc, as I did its predecessor. Both the recording and documentation are first class.

John Phillips

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