String Quartet No.1 in C, Op.37
String Quartet No.2, Op.56
String Quartet in D minor, Op.49
Royal String Quartet [Izabella Szalaj-Zimak & Elwira Przybylowska (violins), Marek Czech (viola) & Michael Pepol (cello)]
Recorded 21-23 March 2008, Potton Hall, Suffolk, UK
Reviewed by: Ben Hogwood
Reviewed: February 2009
CD No: HYPERION CDA67684
Duration: 70 minutes
While the First Quartet predates Szymanowski’s dominant opus, the opera “King Roger”, the Second Quartet comes from a few years after it (1927) and proves more radical in its musical language. There remain strong melodic strands, however, and textural innovations – the tremolos that propel the first movement being particularly urgent in this performance. The Royal Quartet find a real sense of ‘other worldliness’ in Szymanowski’s music, making it sound particularly modern yet thoroughly convincing at the same time, and showing how he stands alongside Bartók, Janáček and Ravel as one of the 20th-century’s innovators in the string-quartet medium. Not only that, the piece by Różycki makes an effective contrast, and is also a real discovery in itself.
To complete an outstanding issue, the sound-quality is superb.