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Szymanowski Quartet


String Quartet in C major Op 54 No. 2
String Quartet No 4
String Quartet No 14 in A flat major Op. 105


AVIE AV 2092 [76 mins]


It is Grazyna Bacewicz (1909-69) whose name will attract our readers, and her quartet is one good reason to invest in this CD. But there are others, a potent one my illustration above, of which more later.

This is a typical concert programme by a quartet often heard in UK as featured BBC Young Generation Artists. Well recorded in an excellent acoustic, Bacewicz's 1951 quartet (the middle of seven) is in neo-classical style (she was a multi-skilled Boulanger pupil) and relates to Szymanowski's nostalgic response to Polish folk music. Everyone should enjoy it.

But I want to concentrate upon Avie's uncommonly excellent presentation, which makes this a CD to covet; the illustration above will have caught your eye?

It boasts a perceptive and thoroughly interesting introduction by Martin Anderson (founder of Toccata Classics), who reminds us of the late Hans Keller, "insider" polemical supremo of expert string quartet commentators. Keller cites 45 flawless Haydn quartets, each unique and this is one of them; for Dvorak only his Eb Op 51 is admitted to Keller's pantheon. Dvorak's late Op 105 is not over played and possibly not one of his best, but welcome here as played idiomatically. There is a wide choice for Haydn, and this account of Op 54/2 is a sound one. The programme as a whole works well; take a coffee break after the Bacewicz.

Hugh O'Donnell's design and art direction is exceptional. Everything is laid out satisfyingly, with good old black-on-white printing and carefully varied type setting. There is a wide selection of photographs, including striking images of Haydn and Dvorak, and a fascinating 'metal work photograph', probably from the Angelika-Kauffmann-Saal in Austria where the recording sessions took place over four generous days in March 2004.

The many photos of the players are superior to those with many CDs, and Avie has cracked the problem of what to do with inside back covers and the CDs themselves. Usually the central 'spider' or hole in the disc ruins any image, but Mark Harrison's photos have been cleverly adjusted around them to contribute positively to the pleasure of handling this package. Nothing wrong with the cover image, but I question the need for them to head every review?



© Peter Grahame Woolf