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Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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String Quartet No 1 (1974)
Miquel ROGER
String Quartet No 2 (1994)
Albert SARDA
String Quartet (1978)
String Quartet No 5 (1994)
Kreutzer Quartet
rec 26-28 Aug 1998, St John's, Loughton
METIER MSV CD 92026 [79.15]

This tightly packed Metier issue digs deep into a little known and unfashionable corner of the string quartet repertoire. The quartet is a far from populist medium (pace Elvis Costello and the Kronos) and when you combine this with the 1970s hurly-burly language of a Catalan Schnittke one is reaching deep. The music never stays still long enough to boring. Its relentless invention, pizzicato sprints, shrieks and howls are not unmusical but a return trip though undoubtedly rewarding may not be encouraged. This contrasts with the still forbidding but more approachable Roger work which in its slides and melodic fragments takes us into the late Beethoven quartets with a lyric spin familiar from Benjamin Frankel's quartets (recorded admirably and complete on CPO). The Sarda's Schoenbergian quartet presents an unyielding face to the listener. It is a dense and obdurate piece - tough and passionate. It slips and slides into quarter notes rather like the John Foulds Cello Sonata (a work of a more welcomingly lyric expressivity). The 1995 Soler work shrugs off the dodecaphonics of years gone by. The contrast is stunning. Think of the subtle regretful melodics of the central movement of the Tippett Triple Concerto and mix that with the quiet but confident explorations of the late quartets of Beethoven. The tonality drifts mistily but there is no harshness; no violent assaults. At the same time the music is not anodyne. At times it communicates as an epic passacaglia - confident and fluent.

We would have benefited from some more biographical information about the three composers.

Otherwise this is a very fine disc for a discerning audience. The music would make apt late night listening.

Rob Barnett

Three 12 tone string quartets and one tonal quartet. Music both tough and subtle. Only the Sarda strikes me as weak. First class upfront recording.

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