Hilding Rosenberg (1892 – 1985), the patriarch of 20th century Swedish music, wrote altogether 14 string quartets , the first in 1920 and the final more than half a century later. This makes him one of the most prolific composers of chamber music in Scandinavia. Also artistically, by virtue of his very personal approach, his power of expression and his technical mastery, Rosenberg’s production is truly outstanding.
This is the the first CD in a series of 6, also available in a boxed set. It contains the quartets No. 1, 6, and 12 performed by the Kyndel Quratet, The Gotland Quartet and The Copenhagen String Quartet.
Though a pupil of the great orchestrator Rimsky-Korsakov, and in turn a teacher to the likes of Rachmaninov, Glière, and Scriabin, Anton Arensky himself is a composer often forgotten when contemplating the Russian greats. Productive in many genres, it is perhaps in his chamber music that this unduly neglected composer truly shines. His writing has much of the same textural sophistication and melodic beauty as his close friend, Tchaikovsky. In fact, the theme on which the Second Quartet's Variations are based is drawn from a Tchaikovsky quartet. Performing Arensky's First and Second string quartets, along with the Piano Quintet, is the Ying Quartet. This ensemble's playing is characterized by a surprisingly precise, consistent uniformity of sound and exactness of articulation, making it seem as if a single instrument were playing as opposed to four independent parts. All aspects of their technical execution are polished and refined, which only enhances their equally enjoyable musical effusiveness, rich, deep tone, and understanding of Arensky's scores that casts them in the best possible light.
The Finnish string quartet Meta4 has now achieved international recognition and regularly plays on the great stages of the world. In their new album, featuring the first and fifth quartets of Béla Bartók, Meta4 turns once again – as a follow up to their hugely successful 2011 recording of Shostakovich quartets – to a program of 20th century masterpieces. There is little doubt that Bartók is among the boldest quartet composers since Beethoven. His irrepressible expression will meet with the equally distinctive style of the four Finns and leads to incredibly expressive, emotionally charged interpretations. The uncompromising musical standards offered by these musicians take hold of the capricious ideas and unorthodox forms of the Hungarian master to deliver what will most likely be the string quartet album of the year.
Dmitri Kabalevsky's music can be flippant, dramatic, ruminative or 'functional'; it can also be rhythmically and texturally complex (parts of the Second Quartet presented on this CD), or tuneful and primary-coloured (Third Piano Concerto and The Comedians ballet). And yet Kabalevsky has remained, at least for many Western listeners, something of a musical side-liner, a sort of soft-core Shostakovich whose very amiability vitiates against a more 'serious' reputation.