Royal String Quartet
Henryk Górecki (1933-2010)
Already it is dusk String Quartet No 1, Op 62 / Quasi una fantasia String Quartet No 2, Op 64
... songs are sung String Quartet No 3, Op 67
Wholenote Discoveries - July/August 2011
The Polish composer Henryk Gorecki, who died last November, wrote three string quartets fairly late in his career - a fourth was apparently unfinished at the time of his death - and these are presented on the specially-priced 2-CD set performed by the Warsaw-based Royal String Quartet. It’s certainly not easy listening, with predominantly slow, quiet, and often dissonant meditative passages with low harmonies and little vibrato, interspersed with rich tonal outbursts. Already it is dusk, from 1988, Quasi una fantasia, from 1991, and ...songs are sung, completed in 1995 but not released until 2005, all offer ample support for Adrian Thomas’ comment in the booklet notes that “contemplation was always central to Gorecki” - certainly there is a sacred as well as a secular feel to these complex and very individualistic works. All three quartets were commissioned and first performed by the Kronos Quartet, who have also recorded them. I haven’t heard their versions, but however different they may be it’s hard to believe that they could be any more authoritative than these exemplary performances by the Polish ensemble. Terry Robbins
Gramophone Editor's Choice - June 2011
Henryk Górecki's intriguing string quartets, all commissions from the Kronos Quartet of San Fransisco, signified a new creative phase in his music. The stark contrasts that had been at the heart of Górecki's compositional thinking in the 1950s and 1960s re-emerged in his chamber music of the mid 1980s and are prevalent in these works. Fans of Górecki will be familiar with the compositional devices employed such as open fifths, sustained rocking motifs, and the juxtaposition of dissonance and consonance.
In these distinctive quartets both Beethoven and Szymanowski's well documented influences on the composer are apparent as well as his fascination with the folk cultures of Southern Poland, with the frequent incorporation of folk derived themes.
Following their acclaimed release of the Szymanowski/Rózycki String Quartets (CDA67684) the Royal String Quartet return for their second Hyperion recording. The young Polish Quartet, renowned for the championing of music from their homeland, display an astonishing range of colour, finesse and attack in these intelligent interpretations.