TCHAIKOVSKY: String Quartet No. 3 in E-flat Minor, Op. 30; Quartet Movement in B-flat Major (1865) — Parkanyi Quartet — Praga Multichannel SACD

by | Aug 23, 2005 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

TCHAIKOVSKY: String Quartet No. 3 in E-flat Minor, Op. 30;
Quartet Movement in B-flat Major (1865) — Parkanyi Quartet — Praga
Multichannel SACD PRD/DSD 250 215, 53:38 (Distrib. Harmonia mundi) ****:

Although Tchaikovsky’s chamber music works number only six, they
represent the composer’s desire to achieve something like legitimacy in
the German tradition of established forms. The rarely heard B-flat
Quartet Movement shows that the twenty-five-year-old composer had
outgrown student exercises and employed folk tunes (here, Ukranian) and
chorale motifs with dexterity and melodic beauty. The tri-partite
structure might be obligated to Tchaikovsky’s familiarity with the
Beethoven middle quartets. The writing for viola shows a gift for
interior lines and colors. In various rhythmic devices, we can hear
intimations of later developments in his ballets and in the Souvenir de
Florence sextet.

Like his Piano Trio (1876), conceived as an homage or tombeau to the
spirit of Nicholas Rubinstein, the E-flat Minor Quartet (1876) is
dedicated to the passing of violinist Ferdinand Laub, a Bohemian
colleague who had participated in premier performances of Tchaikovsky’s
two prior quartets, Op. 11 and Op. 22.  The choice of key echoes
Tchaikovsky’s admiration for a sound Chopin exploits. Both the opening
movement and the broad Andante possess a stately, funereal character
and an evolving melodic line we will hear many times from this
composer, from Swan Lake to the Winter Dreams Symphony. 
Tchaikovsky envied the success of Borodin’s D Major String Quartet, so
he utilized Russian national tunes and harmonies, even borrowing a
passing tune or two from the fourth act of his own Evgeny Onegin. 
Strong polyphonic moments, marked by clever use of stretti, mark the
development secton. The cello part often creates a pulsing obstinate, a
source of underlying tension that refuses to relax even in the brief
Allegro vivo e scherzando. Hints of Schumann and Beethoven in the
risoluto finale, in which Tchaikovsky quotes the opening movement
subject, saying goodbye to dear colleagues and resigning himself to the
will to life. With cellist Michael Muller, the three members of the
former Orlando Quartet have, since 1984, become the Parkanyi Quartet,
whose warm, crisp execution marks every bar of the Tchaikovsky opera.
In Praga’s edition, the 15-17 December 2003 inscription from the
Doopgezinde Church, Deventer (Netherlands) has a resonance and
surrounding sonic presence that makes for vivid, visceral, and intimate

–Gary Lemco

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