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  BeArTon -
  The Pearls of Polish Music - The Polish Chamber Music
  Moniuszko: String Quartet No. 1, Szymanowski: String Quartet No. 2 Op. 56, Bacewicz: String Quartet No. 4

Royal String Quartet
Track listing:
  Classical - Chamber
Recording type:
Recording info:

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Reviews: 2

Site review by Geohominid April 1, 2008
Performance:   Sonics:    
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Review by Beagle September 14, 2006 (4 of 5 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
I've been savouring the 2 discs from Polish BeArTon all week, and tho' I should throw some Bartók on now while the wife is out of the house, I am listening once again to this disc, which is deeply satisfying in terms of music, musicianship and recording.

Stanislaw Moniuszko (1819-72) was just a name to me (not even a curiosity-inspiring name, like Dalayrac de la Laurenci...). Mea culpa, Stanislaw may not be another Beethoven, but he's a worthy successor to Haydn. The liner notes make a very telling point: Poland was submerged culturally and otherwise under Russia all through the Classical era. And that may well explain why Mendelssohn and Schumann are household words, but Moniuszko ain't. This first quartet dates from 1839, contemporaneous with a pair of quartets by Mendelssohn and another pair by Schumann, Nielson's Quartet no. 0, and a six-pack by Ferdinand Ries. It sounds very Mendelssohnesque, with that self-pitying whimper that Felix was so good at -- but in Tsarist Poland, Moniuszko was unlikely to be aware of anything post-Beethoven. I especially enjoy The Finale: presto which has a catchy musette (bagpipe) imitation.

Karel Szymanowski (1882-1932) isn't such an unknown; I have his 2 quartets on rbcd by the Goldner Quartet. It is no criticism of the Goldners, but Szymanowski never sounded so good as he does here. The opening notes send modest shivvers of awe and pleasure down my spinal nerves. Opus 56 was written in 1927, when old Glazunov was penning his Élégie, middle-aged Bartók was writing Quartet III and IV, and 18-year old Sam Barber was writing Serenade for strings. Szymanowski is modern without being modernist, perhaps owing his tonality more to Wagner or R. Strauss than Schoenberg.

Grazyna Bacewicz (1909-69), wrote her fourth quartet in the inauspicious year of 1950 (tone-rows all the rage), and yet it emerges unscathed as one of those bright, utterly musical gems of the unlamented 20th Century -- I keep thinking of Dag Wiren's one wonderful piece, op. 18. Its three movements are over all too quickly. (This piece also exists on the Avie/Szymanowski Qtt disc, which sounds muted and droopy by comparison.)

The repertoire here is a welcome dash of novelty to the sacd stew. Bravo BeArton! The timbre of this disc reminds me of my favourite Kocian/Haydn disc: warm, but defined, not reverberant: as good as it gets without IsoMike. The playing of the relatively young musicians of the Polish Royal Quartet* is transparent, perhaps reflecting the maturity of older mentors; the music is not TOO demanding, so I'll limit them to 4 stars for starters (4 out of 5 ain't BAD).

*Not to be confused with Kopehagen Royal Qtt.

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Works: 3  

Grazyna Bacewicz - String Quartet No. 4
Stanislaw Moniuszko - String Quartet No. 1
Karol Szymanowski - String Quartet No. 2, M 64 Op. 56