Tchaikovsky: String Quartets, Vol 1 - Utrecht String Quartet
MDG Scene 903 1575-6
Classical - Chamber
Tchaikovsky: String Quartet No. 1, String Quartet No. 2
Utrecht String Quartet
It was rather by accident that Peter Tchaikovsky discovered the string quartet genre for himself in February 1871. His debut in this genre would mark his first great success. The renowned Utrecht String Quartet inaugurates its complete recording of Tchaikovsky’s string quartets on MDG with the Quartets in D major op. 11 and in F major op. 22.
Tchaikovsky had attended the conservatories in St. Petersburg and Moscow and gathered experience as a composer with support from the brothers Anton and Nikolai Rubinstein. At the age of thirty, however, he was still waiting for his major breakthrough. It was above all the second movement of op. 11, so famous today, that elicited hymns of praise from the public and press alike. Tchaikovsky, full of pride, reported in 1872 that his work had also created a sensation in St. Petersburg.
Allegro non tanto
This positive resonance lent wings to the composer, who wrote his second quartet at the end of 1873 and beginning of 1874. In a letter to his brother Modest he described this work as his best to date: “Nothing flows so easily and simply from me.”
The Utrecht String Quartet, one of the most renowned chamber music ensembles of the Netherlands, focuses its work on the investigation of lost or forgotten repertoire. Its recordings of the string quartets of Alexander Grechaninov, Alexander Glazunov, and Lex van Delden have made a lasting impression, and the series is continued in outstanding fashion on the present release.
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Review by John Broggio - September 25, 2009
A most welcome debut on SACD to these lovely works.
For those who aren't familiar with the compositions, the first quartet is abundant with melodies to the point of overflowing and is quite possibly the most easy-on-the-ear work of the Romantic string quartet repertoire. The second quartet isn't as well endowed melodically speaking but still holds its own for the most part and indeed delves deeper into the soul than its predecessor. In terms of performance, the Utrecht players have some great accounts to measure themselves against - not least the two from the Borodin Quartet, who are synonymous with the repertoire, with their historic set of recordings made in the 1960's (together with a Souvenir de Florence that includes Rostropovich as the 2nd cellist) is arguably the finest of all cycles.
There is little to distinguish the two quartets approaches in the second quartet save for a feeling that the Utrecht players have a more equal role whereas the Borodin ensemble is perhaps slightly dominated by the first violinist. In the first movement of the first quartet there are real differences though - the Borodin ensemble is quite extreme in their choice of tempo fluctuations and many will prefer the more measured approach of the Utrecht ensemble as it is generally evenly paced with no grand slowing for the more lyrical passages; there is no lack of excitement in either approach but performing tastes these days seem to prefer a more chaste view of music. The rest of the quartet is approached with similar styles by both ensembles and no greater compliment can be payed to the Utrecht ensemble than saying that they lack nothing in comparison. The tender Andante is most beautifully played and the finale is most thrillingly dispatched.
The sound is also of high quality, fully in keeping with the best standard of MDG's 2+2+2 philosophy. [It goes without saying that this is one area where the Utrecht Quartet is far better served than any other extant account.]
Highly enjoyably and recommended - I can't wait for volume 2!
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