Szymanowski Quartet in the rhythm of mazurka

14 June 2019, 14:00
Szymanowski Quartet in the rhythm of mazurka

The Polish ensemble Szymanowski Quartet at the Concentus Moraviae Festival presented works by their compatriots Karol Szymanowski, Stanisław Moniuszko and Gražyna Bacewicz in the Church of Sts. Peter and Paul in Řeznovice yesterday. The concert was part of worldwide celebrations of the two-hundredth anniversary of birth of Stanisław Moniuszko, which is considered by many to be the founder of Polish national music. The evening was held under the auspices of the Ambassador of the Republic of Poland to the Czech Republic, HE Barbara Ćwioro.

The programme started with the String Quartet No. 1 in C major, Op. 37 by Karol Szymanowski. Although the composer devoted himself to chamber music rather marginally, his two string quartets can withstand comparison with pivotal works of quartet literature. In spite of the relatively classical formal structure of the composition, the author chose a relatively modern musical language spiced up in his final third movement with polytonality, which in its austerity borders occasionally with cynicism and evokes passages from Shostakovich's string quartets. The contrast between the mournful thoughtfulness of the slow parts and the uncompromisingly sharp satire of the third movement was successfully supported by the musicians with their fundamental changes of expression that ranged from melancholically enlightened tones in pianissimo to sharp tremolos with an aggressive sound. It is also necessary to praise the rhythmic unity of the musicians, especially given the fact that the cellist Karol Marianowski merely covers for currently pregnant Monika Leskovarová, who is a permanent member of the ensemble. Especially the pizzicatos, where even the slightest deviations in the rhythm manifest themselves most, sounded uniform, even after an expressive rubato.

The String Quartet No. 1 in D minor by Stanisław Moniuszko eased the exaltation of the previous composition and showed the expressive mastery of the musicians who grasped this much more romantic work with fervent tone and stylized elegance. Their prudent vibrato was particularly refreshing, and it was played by all members of the ensemble only in places where the logic of music required it. As a result, the sound of the ensemble oscillated between the elegance of straight tones and the emotionality of decoration. Melodic imitations, which the musicians shared with each other, also deserve to be highlighted, while at the same time paying attention to the uniqueness of their message, and the cascade of tunes has thus become a busy musical dialogue. One should not forget the echoes of folk music, which in the performance of the ensemble remained in the department of artificial music, yet did not deny their origin in folk culture.

The final part of the evening was dedicated to the String Quartet No. 4 by the Polish composer and violinist Gražyna Bacewicz, one of the leading representatives of Polish music of the last century. By using polytonality and fresh expressive means, the author followed up on the opening work of the evening, giving glissandos, pizzicatos, bowing behind the bridge and other violin techniques a strong representation. In addition, the three-movement composition shows the influences of not only French neoclassicism, but also folk music, whose characteristic melodic style was omnipresent during the evening as a connection between the works of all composers. The particularly captivating cello solo was expressively rich, accompanied by viola pizzicatos and the silent quivering chord decompositions of a pair of violins. As an encore we heard the second movement from Dvořák's String Quartet No. 14 in A flat major.

Szymanowski Quartet, in the intimate ambiance of the Řeznovice church – one of the oldest religious monuments in Moravia – has proven to be just one of the most outstanding chamber ensembles of this time. The performers introduced the musical past and present of the Polish nation, which definitely could not and should not be missed by the Concentus Moraviae festival with its thematic setting of a Concert of Nations.

Szymanowski Quartet

Programme:

Karol Szymanowski: String Quartet No. 1, Op. 37

Stanisław Moniuszko: String Quartet No. 1 in D minor

Grażyna Bacewicz: String Quartet No. 4

Ivančice, local district Řeznovice, Church of Sts. Peter and Paul

Thursday, 13 June 2019

Photo by Jiří Sláma

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