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CD: Crotchet

Lars-Erik LARSSON (1908-1986)
Senhöstblad (Late Autumn Leaves) incl. Intimate Miniatures op. 20 (1940) [20:51]
String Quartet No. 1 op. 31 (1944) [21:20]
String Quartet No. 2 Quartetto alla Serenata op. 44 (1955) [18:30]
String Quartet No. 3 op. 65 (1975) [10:23]
The Stenhammar Quartet
rec. studio 2, Swedish Radio, Stockholm, 13-14 September 2008 (opp. 20, 31); studio 3 11 August 2008 (op. 44); studio 9 17-18 M<ay 2008 (op. 65). DDD
DAPHNE 1035 [72:11]
Experience Classicsonline

The Swedish composer Lars-Erik Larsson wrote his three numbered string quartets between 1944 and 1975 and each one is shorter than the last. The 1960s appear to have been a  fallow period but otherwise each decade is represented by a quartet.
Before the first quartet we hear the Late Autumn Leaves, a delightful sequence of six Intimate Miniatures from 1940. These were written during one of Larsson's most prolific and rewarding periods. The music derives from a radio programme in which excerpts from Senhöstblad by Ola Hansson (1860-1925) were alternated with these brief string quartet movements. The poems chart the progress of Autumn into Winter. The music is warm-hearted, a series of smilingly intelligent confidences - a tender dialogue between lovers. There's no trace of the Schoenbergian experiments Larsson championed in his 10 two-part pieces in 1932. The writing stands in the romantic tradition established by Stenhammar's six quartets but in even more delicate leafy autumn hues. This is beautiful spare Nordic music; its coolness being balanced with a spring in the step. The light melancholy of the earlier movements becomes more sharply poignant in the final Adagio.
The First Quartet is more obliquely expressed. While the medium might well encourage it the writing here is evidently the work of a precisian. It bristles with busy detail - not always playing to the lyrical heart of the medium. There are times when this sounds like a compact between Mozart and Reger - at least in the first and third movements. The Second Quartet yearns with a more candidly revealed heart. It was dedicate to the composer Sten Broman. In its meshing of gears and tiers it recalls Britten of the same period (mid 1950s) but with some of Nielsen's objectivity and a chilly Bergian overlay. Yet there is tenderness also in the long wistful Andante Tranquillo before the blitzingly active Britten-reminiscent Allegro Vivace. The ten minute long three movement Third Quartet was Larsson's last significant work. For all that it is sterner than the Second it retains the propensities of the earlier works but with a brighter candlepower. The singing heart though is still present as we can hear from the witty and touching end of the first movement.
The Stenhammar Quartet play throughout with articulate communicative devotion and emotional precision throughout. The presentation is clean, thorough – all that you might wish.
Rob Barnett


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