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String Quartets between the Wars and The Soviet Experience

Leos Janácek String Quartet No. 2, “Intimate Letters” (1928)
Ruth Crawford Seeger (1901–1953) String Quartet (1931)
Paul Hindemith (1895–1963) String Quartet No. 4, Op. 22 (1922)



Pacifica Quartet


Cedille CDR 90000 092 [TT: 65 mins] $16



Hindemith's five-movement String Quartet Op. 22 (1922) has long been one of my favourites, but it is rarely heard nowadays. (I also like the acerbic Piano Suite '1922'). Later, Hindemith reduced his dissonance norm (e.g. re-writing the Marianleben song cycle less abrasively and to its disadvantage).


What I find strange is that Cedille seems to find a need to explain, and almost apologise, for Pacifica's departure from "single composer CDs" which are perhaps easier to market?


"It's an opportunity to present music that touches us emotionally" says violinist Sibbi Bernhardson - as if they should play anything that doesn't! The central Ruhige Viertel of the Hindemith, the keystone of its arch structure (like Sibelius' also once popular Voces Intimae) is one of those pieces that gets under your skin so that you never forget it.


These days, Janacek's quartets are played everywhere by everyone; 'twas not ever so... American Ruth Crawford Seeger's 1931 String Quartet came into the repertoire latterly, with the increasing interest in women composers, amongst whom she was a notable pioneer. A sensitive, expressive account of this post-war avant gardist compact masterpiece.


A fine CD, close miked, excellently recorded and presented. The complete liner notes are to be found on Cedille's website, where complete movements of the Janacek and Hindemith are supplied for online sampling. A highly recommendable production for those who prefer mixed programmes, as I do.



Shostakovich String Quartets No. 5, 6, 7 and 8
Miaskovsky String Quartet No. 13 in A minor, Op. 86



Shostakovich String Quartets Nos 1-4

Prokofev String Quartet No 2


Cedille Records CDR 90000 127& CDR 90000 130 [ 2 discs eac, priced considerately]


You just can't go wrong with Pacifica. Always well prepared, with good annotations and superbly recorded in good acoustics, this is a collectors' series, well able to stand all the competition.


Long may they thrive to delight us.

Peter Grahame Woolf





Peter Grahame Woolf