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String Quartets 1 - 3; String Trio
The Danish Quartet
CPO 999 064-2
[70 mins]
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This CD was received for review in connection with the S&H report on Sofia Gubaidulina at South Bank and Goldsmith's College. Gubaidulina's four string quartets constitute an important line in her oeuvre, and it is good to have the first three gathered together with the trio which she wrote soon after quartet no 3. I doubt whether she would favour listening to them straight through, as happened in the Purcell Room, for there is a degree of repetition of self-referential gestures, of which she is no doubt well aware.

The first quartet (1971) hints at personal conflict, with abstract preoccupations with form and (numerical) balances subverted by a musico-theatrical presentation, the players gradually edging backwards from the centre of the platform, increasingly farther from each other. Nothing is quite what it seems, and a final cello litany brings desolation instead of any comfort. The concise No 2 (1987) is replete with rubato, espressivo & vibrato indications with many flageolets & glissandi, 'intensity through approximation to the ineffable' (Vera Lumpe). The third features many pizzicato colourations and fluctuations of movement in quintuplets, sextuplets and septuplets, with bowed tones a late, special event. The string trio explores modes of communication between the participants, recalling that of the first quartet, first all three interacting, next violin and cello against viola, and finally each instrument individually.

The performances and recording sound exemplary, a fine pendant to treasure after the memorable live experience.

Peter Grahame Woolf

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