Though these three composers did not dedicate much time to chamber music, their string quartets are extremely interesting and original. In 1877 Edvard Grieg planned to write a piece “full of panache and imagination, taking full advantage of the sound spectrum of the instruments applied.” Was he successful in this task? Though the Quartet Op. 27 features many kaleidoscopically changing images, Leipzig reviewers tore Grieg’s new work to pieces. About a dozen years later Debussy wove the textures of his Quartet in G Minor out of capricious lines and sharp dynamic contrasts. Karol Szymanowski received the following letter from his friend Paweł Kochański in July 1917: “Can you recall how you once disliked quartets, how their sound displeased you as not rich enough.” This was written in the context of an enthusiastic comment on the news that the composer was working in the rural estate of Tymoszówka on the first of his two quartets. The cycle never received the form that had been planned for it (Szymanowski had originally meant to finish the cycle with a fugue). All the same, it remains one of the most interesting compositions in Polish chamber music. It is distinguished by an unusual treatment of harmony and tonality. In the finale, Szymanowski consistently applies polytonal textures manifested in the score by the use of separate accidentals for every instrument. A decade later, when composing his Quartet No. 2, he confessed to Paweł Kochański and his wife Zofia: “I have no idea whether the music is worthwhile! (But I think it’s going to have a really good sound.) Stylistically the piece seems rather interesting to me.” This 2nd Quartet is very different from the 1st – reflecting Szymanowski’s fascination with the music of the highlands.
Promoter Warsaw Philharmonic
In partnership with the Warsaw Philharmonic