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Three from CODA

Russian Generations - String Quartets

Prokofiev: String Quartet No. 1 in B minor, Op. 50
Prokofiev, G: Quartet No. 1
Tchaikovsky: String Quartet No. 1 in D major, Op. 11

Ruysdael Quartet

Cobra - COBRA0024

When opened for review this disc evoked a dim memory of having heard a string quartet by the then young Gabriel Prokofiev, son of locally based visual artist Oleg Prokofiev and grandson of the famous composer. Regrettably the recording of the Ruysdael Quartet is not very good, partly (I suspect) because the engineering does not take advantage of the church acoustic. I am sure there are better accounts of the first string quartets of Tchaikovsky and Serge Prokofiev available.

Which leaves Gabriel's concise piece in four short movements, for which the rather harsh tone colour is not inappropriate, indeed intrinsic to his original voice at that time. It made me think (again) of Stravinsky's rather rebarbative pieces for string quartet; and Google has helped me to verify that connection made at the work's premiere in Blackheath.* I enjoyed hearing it again; what has he done since then, I wondered?

Well, the answer was easy to find. Gabriel is far into modern technology and very active, and I have been able to hear his Second String Quartet played by the Elysian String Quartet, available in its entirety (and in high quality sound) on his website/MySpace; yes, Gabriel Prokofiev is decidedly a composer to watch.

Peter Grahame Woolf

*Serge Prokofiev complete chamber music, Blackheath Halls 11/12 October 2003 (PGW)
Gabriel Prokofiev String Quartet
Elysian String Quartet
- - A last word for the youngest Prokofiev, grandson Gabriel, whose very new String Quartet was premiered by the excellent, locally based, up-coming Elysian String Quartet.
Venturing into the hallowed world of the string quartet, the burden of its masterpieces daunting to many contemporary composers, Gabriel Prokofiev came fresh and unprejudiced from working in electro-acoustics. He finds a distinctive voice which (to my ears, but not consciously his) built upon some of the original brusqueness and spare textures of Stravinsky's regrettably sole foray with his three, all too brief, pieces.
Gabriel's is arresting music which held attention easily in this august company, despite some awkward corners and loss of energy in the faster movements; Gabriel Prokofiev and the Elysians should continue developing it towards publication and a regular place in their repertoire. PGW


Handel. Jephtha
Matthias Grünert, Dresdner Barockorchester, Kammerchor der Frauenkirche. Jephtha: Markus Schäfer; Iphis: Birte Kulawik, soprano; Angel: Miriam Meyer, soprano; Storge: Britta Schwarz, mezzo-soprano; Hamor: Patrick van Goethem, countertenor; tenor; Zebul: Gotthold Schwarz, bass
Carus 83.422 (3 CDs, December 2008)

The listing of this release caught my eye as Christine Schafer is one of my favourite sopranos. But it turns out that this is, in my view, an indifferent recording of the oratorio Jephtha, and that the Schafer is a different one. I am disinclined to review it, but will consult our vocal specialist.

Messiaen works for Ondes Martenot (Ensemble d'ondes de Montreal) ATMA ACD2 2621
This is a historical curiosity, but shows neither Messiaen nor the pioneering instrument of the late-'20s to advantage. A movement of Ravel's string quartet is horrible ! [Editor]