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Siete qui: Home Festival Festival 2010 Justifying the quartet: a Russian story
Justifying the quartet: a Russian story PDF Print E-mail

The fear of compromising themselves with German music, may have been the reason why the Russian composers limited their interest to the «consecrated» form of string quartet. Actually, but for the case of Shostakovich, who wrote fifteen quartets (and what quartets he wrote!), such master pieces in this geographical area are not found to be so numerous. Aleksandr Porfirevich Borodin and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky were able to gain their stripes on the field. Igor Stravinsky tread a different path and his relationship with the quartet medium resolved itself very fleetingly. His Concertino saw the light of day in 1920 as an answer to a commissioning of the Flonzaley Quartet, a historical ensemble launched in New York in 1902 already dedicatee of Three Pieces for a string quartet. It is a precious gem, a distillate of biting clarity on the road to Neoclassicism, essentially tripartite (with tantalising harmonious-colourful balances of the median section) with a Coda (end-piece) which vanishes away in an unperceivable manner; still Stravinsky, evidently unaware of the result, thought of arranging it, thirty years later, for an ensemble enlarged for chosen wind instruments.
With his Quartet No. 1 in D major Tchaikovsky composed in 1871 the first Russian quartet to have gained a fixed place in repertoires. The work looks at Mittel-European models (particularly Schubert and Mendelssohn, peep here and there), but the material is already treated in an authentically Tchaikovsky style with his gentle, light soaring in an emotional and enthralling merry-go-round. Indeed, the gloomy and desperate fatalism, which was to become practically his trademark, is lacking, but the genuine lyricism pervading these pages always succeeds in touching deeply. Let yourself be cradled, for example, by the old Ukrainian melody which even if metrically irregular, is played by the first violin in the Andante cantabile and represents the backbone of the whole quartet (it is also cyclically revealed in a different form even in the other three movements): it even moved the short tempered Lev Tolstoy!
The search for balance between nationalism and a western mindset is equally present in Borodin’s Quartet No. 1 in A major which he composed between 1875 and 1879. It is really Beethoven who provides the material for the first theme of the initial Allegro, yet the evident mentioning of the Finale (concluding piece) of Quartet op. 130 here displays exquisite autochthonous surroundings. Enraptured, we taste the delicate colour schemes innervating the second theme of the first movement, while it is not forbidden to be endearing in the Trio dello Scherzo during the priceless cantilena or singsong of its harmonious sounds in the manner of an iridescent carillon.


Massimo Viazzo