For those whose knowledge of the 20th century string quartet stops at Bartók and Shostakovich, and maybe Britten and Tippett, the four works on this CD offer a radically different approach to the quartet medium. Lutoslawski’s radical instincts had long been suppressed by the Polish communist regime, but the 1950s Warsaw Autumn Festivals saw a thaw in artistic censorship,and Lutoslawski could experiment with the latest in Western musical developments, and indulge his interest in French Impressionism. The LaSalle Quartet in Stockholm premiered the work in 1965. It was commissioned by Swedish Radio. Penderecki had a considerable body of avant-garde works to his credit in 1960 (he has since adopted a neo-romantic style, and has moved like John Adams, to a more accessible style of composition) when he composed this quartet, which explores all manner of novel sonorities and playing techniques. The LaSalle gave the premiere in Cincinnati in 1962. The Japanese composer Toshiro Mayuzumi studied at the Paris Conservatoire, and was influenced by Messiaen and Japanese traditional music and Buddhism. His Prelude dates from 1961. The oldest work on this CD is the Cage String Quartet in Four parts of 1950. Not only is the work in four movements, it reflects the four voices of the quartet and the Indian view of the year, in which each season is associated with a particular force creation, preservation, destruction and quiescence. The first two movements also refer to places – France and America respectively. The whole work is marked by a remarkable and appealing gentleness, and a continuity of utterance that may come as a surprise to those who are better acquainted with Cage’s reputation than his music.
‘The LaSalle Quartet are as impressive, and as well-recorded, in the full range of playing techniques demanded by the Lutoslawski as they are in the dedicated restraint needed for the Cage.’ Gramophone 1977
‘These excellent performances sound as good as new in their latest, digitally remastered manifestations.’ Gramophone 1988
Click on any of the works listed above for alternative recordings.