The Pavel Haas Quartet, one of the very finest chamber ensembles of the present time, earned for their first two CDs (Janáček, Pavel Haas) numerous prestigious accolades (Classic FM Gramophone Award, BBC Music Magazine Award, Cannes MIDEM Classical Award, etc.). With the Prokofiev pieces featured on this album the Quartet has for the first time entered the field of the Russian (or, if you will, international) repertoire.
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.
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.
GRAMOPHONE Magazine Editor's Choice - October 2015.The Artemis Quartet pairs Brahms’ intense first quartet with his lighter-spirited third quartet, both works that the Artemis’ cellist, Eckart Runge, describes as “remarkable and multi-faceted”. He says that “Brahms marries a Romantic spirit with the structure and forms of Classicism. There is an almost symphonic approach in the writing, but at the same time the quartets are imbued with a sense of warmth, immediacy, friendship and love that is interwoven with a more spiritual, timeless beauty”.