BARTOK: String Quartet No. 1, Sz. 40; String Quartet No. 2, Sz. 67 – Parkanyi String Quartet – Praga

by | Jul 11, 2007 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

BARTOK: String Quartet No. 1, Sz. 40; String Quartet No. 2, Sz. 67 – Parkanyi String Quartet – Praga MultiChannel SACD PRD/DSD 250 235, 59:28 (Distrib. Harmonia mundi) ****:

From the outset–String Quartet No. 1 (1907)–of this fine disc, we feel the strong ties Bartok had with late Beethoven, especially the latter’s Op. 131. In the surround sound medium, the individual timbres of cello (Michael Mueller) and first violin (Istvan Parkanyi), alone and blended with their fellow players, allow Bartok’s expressive harmony a decided expansiveness. The oscillations of F Minor and A Minor create an eerie mist in the manner of a painting by Edvard Munch. The music slithers into the Allegretto, a richly textured, sinuous theme that has the interior strings busy. The whinings of the viola (Ferdinand Erblich) are countered by the deft pizzicati from the two violins. As the music becomes more agitated and concertante, the quality of sounds appears illumined. Modal, church harmonies blend with village tunes, ad libitum. The last movement, Allegro vivace, involves wide leaps in register among the instruments, with the cello line soaring while the violin pines introspectively. The Magyar elements explode into a wild, passionate dance, played with biting, fervent energy by the Parkanyi ensemble. The final pages bask in serene, folkish melancholy.

The Second Quartet (1918) has the first violin in recitative while the fellow instruments create an oriental atmosphere not too far from Schoenberg’s syntax for Transfigured Night. The surround sound medium allows the dialogues between Parkanyi’s violin and Erblich’s viola spacious counterpoint, the cello deeply resonant in its upper register. The Allegro molto capriccioso has us thinking of Allegro barbaro and the opening of the scherzo to Prokofiev’s Fifth Symphony. Rough-hewn and rife with slides and sighs, the highly charged music keeps the Parkanyi players moving, just ahead of the darkness. The middle section features a kind of deconstruction of the texture, as each Instrument has a note, a sputter, a jab of music, until they reunite in frenzied, expressionistic harmony. Hints from Bluebeard’s Castle – especially the “lake of tears” episode, open the Lento movement, shades of Bartok’s ubiquitous “night music.” A modal austerity emanates from the Parkanyi players, a prayer or doxology of anguished expressivity. Archaic, Roumanian ruminations and sudden, yearning interjections might set us to thinking of Wozzeck, whose own lunar thoughts converged with nightmares.

— Gary Lemco

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