String Quartet No.1 in C, Op.37
In the mists
String Quartet No.1, Op.7
Iwona Sobotka (soprano), Henning Kraggerud (violin) & Piotr Anderszewski (piano)
Belcea Quartet [Corina Belcea-Fischer & Laura Samuel (violins), Krzysztof Chorzelski (viola) & Antoine Lederlin (cello)]
Reviewed by: Bob Briggs
Reviewed: 5 May, 2010
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London
Three composers, all of whom owed much to folk music, yet who each forged entirely different careers, made a very welcome compliment to one another in this fascinating programme.
Szymanowski’s work went through three distinct phases – the rich late-romantic, the eastern exoticism, and the final, almost neo-classical, folk-style; here we heard one-and-a-half of his stylistic changes. Myths, for violin and piano, is contemporaneous with the exotic, not to mention erotic, First Violin Concerto. The three movements depict things mythical, and the music is real hothouse stuff, with both harmonies and melodic material seeming to exist at a very high voltage. Henning Kraggerud certainly raised the temperature of the Wigmore Hall with his superb playing, of a frighteningly difficult and unforgiving part, and his understanding of this most elusive music. He was admirably partnered by Piotr Anderszewski.
The other two Szymanowski works are from the time of his transition to folk-inflected music. The String Quartet is a much simpler, with clean lines, almost classical in their starkness. The Belcea Quartet delivered a suitably restrained performance. The songs to nonsense words, “Slopiewnie”, cover a wide range of emotion with an extensive vocal line, from the most tender of whispers to great shouts of almost sexual satisfaction. This was given a marvelously unbridled performance by Iwona Sobotka.
Janáček’s In the mists drew from Anderszewski a virtuoso performance which captured the volatile nature of this music. Whilst it has a fanciful title, the four pieces only carry tempo markings, so the pianist is free to give full rein to his musical fancy and this is what we heard here. In a mere quarter-hour, or thereabouts, Janáček encapsulates his own world in music as hypnotic and mesmerising as anything he ever wrote and Anderszewski understood the dreamlike qualities of the work.
Unfortunately, Bartók’s String Quartet No.1 disappointed, but not for any musical reasons, simply because it was far too long to fit into a concert of short if very intense pieces. The Belcea Quartet gave a fine performance but this wasn’t the place for it.