Greek-born Canadian Christos Hatzis composes and teaches at the University of Toronto. In his First String Quartet the sounds of the stringed instruments are pitted against the taped sounds of Inuit throat singing and railway locomotives. Hatzis describes this as an encounter between two civilizations: Canada’s native cultures and the immigrant cultures which confront them. There is a solo cello melody and its development which Hatzis describes as “a musical affirmation of my faith in the divine”. It is simple and hauntingly beautiful, most effective when played against the complexity of the taped music.
The Second Quartet was inspired by the recent conflict in Yugoslavia. It is stern stuff, depicting the horrors and absurdities of war. In the fourth movement is found the Troparion, a prayer for spiritual metamorphosis, relief which blunts the ferocity of Hatzis’ cry against war.
The St. Lawrence String Quartet is one of the preeminent North American chamber music ensembles. Since its founding in Canada in 1989, it has established a reputation for high quality music making in the standard quartet repertory as well as contemporary composition. The Hatzis Second Quartet was commissioned by the St. Lawrence.
These quartets are inspired, heartfelt music. They require attentive, repetitive listening and reflection. The recording – made in 2004 for EMI at the Music and Sound Program at The Banff Centre, Banff, Alberta – is first-rate, as is the St. Lawrence Quartet performance. Recommended.
— Ronald Legum