PIOTR MOSS: Chagall for Strings = String Quartet No. 4, “Chagall”; Le lien entre les jours; Dedication – Jadwiga Rappe, mezzo/ Opium String Q. – Accord multichannel SACD ACD-195, 64:44 [Distr. by Naxos] ****:

The four thirtyish very attractive and high-heeled ladies that make up the Opium String Quartet are all graduates of the Fryderyk Chopin Music Academy in Warsaw. This music seems to pose little problem for them, easily gliding through the many technical difficulties with aplomb, and sporting a fine tonal richness and warm sound.

Piotr Moss is a Polish expatriate who took French citizenship and now resides in that country, though his roots are clearly elsewhere and he is accorded fame as one of his native land’s most accomplished artists. Early studies were with Grazyna Bacewitz and Penderecki, and after his move to France, with Nadia Boulanger (is there any major composer who hasn’t studied with her?). The “Chagall” String Quartet reflects the composer’s inspiration coming through various art forms, though he says that this one is a rare incursion to the world of painting. It is no tone poem of the artist’s life or anything remotely “biographical”; instead it concentrates on themes, rhythms, and atmosphere, incorporating motives from the painter’s work, in a musically-transfigured manner. The piece also includes folk music of the Russian and Jewish kind, though it would be a mistake to think of this piece as derivative at all—it is most assuredly not. But at 50 minutes in length it is a major statement that only gradually reveals its secrets. Its ancestors are easily Bartok and Shostakovich, without whom it could not exist; yet even here Moss adds his own “flavoring” to the whole, creating a penetrative and thoroughly satisfying composition that anyone with proclivities towards the two aforementioned composers should have no trouble apprehending.

Le lien entre les jours (The link between the days) is from a collection of poetry by the Belgian poet Miriam Van Hee. There are three poems covered in a six movement work that grants the singer the odd-numbered movements while relegating instrumental interludes to the even-numbered ones, with the sixth “epilogue” given to solo cello. The poetry, and hence the tone of the music, is ascetic, somewhat restrained and hidden, though quite reflective and moving. Mezzo Jadwiga Rappe handles it beautifully, with an appropriate reserve and quietness.

The brief Dedication from 1994 is a form of thanks for an appearance on a television show which featured the composer’s music. Moss calls it a compositional exercise on variations on a theme of four notes presented in varied order. It is an attractive piece, though, as with most of these sorts of works, of limited expression when compared to all that has gone before on this recording.

Accord’s sound is tremendously effective, showing how bracing string quartets can sound in multichannel. A fine release.

—Steven Ritter