Music Web International: Disc of the Month; Fono Forum: Stern des Monats.
Using new, critically revised scores, the Emperor String Quartet presents their interpretations of three works which give a fascinating picture of an exciting era in 20th century music.
Composed between 1929 and 1937, these quartets by Bohuslav Martinu employ various styles and techniques. With its inventive sonorities, and the focusing on rhythm rather than melody, the brief Quartet No. 3 is more reminiscent of non-European music than of the normal canon of Western music of the period.
In the neo-classical Fourth Quartet, Martinu combined French mesure with Czech melodic invention. The combination of typical stylistic characteristics of Martinu, Roussel and Stravinsky makes this classically disciplined and moderate work a fascinating mixture of the styles that were common in Paris towards the end of the 1930s; the result, however, is extremely individual and homogeneous.
Martinu’s source of inspiration for String Quartet No. 5 was Vítezslava Kaprálová, a talented composer 25 years his junior, who took private lessons from him in Paris and with whom he soon started an affair. In his informed and informative liner notes, Ales Brezina – director of the Bohuslav Martinu Institute in Prague– proposes that this may have been the reason why Martinu refrained from publishing the work until the very last year of his life – a fact all the more astonishing since there is no doubt that the quartet is one of the composer’s most significant chamber works.
This, the first disc of a projected Martinu String Quartet Edition, is the Emperor String Quartet’s second BIS release, following a recording of chamber music by James MacMillan (BIS-CD-1269) which received great critical acclaim: for instance in Gramophone (”Performances throughout are as superlatively disciplined as they are tirelessly eloquent”) and in Répertoire (“L'interprétation, hypersensible, affiche une virtuosité et un fini spectaculaires, d'une explosivité impitoyable”).