Declarations - Music Between The Wars / Pacifica Quartet

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The Pacifica String Quartet plays with such lovely tone that even the thornier bits of the atonal Seeger and the acerbic Hindemith works come across...

The Pacifica String Quartet plays with such lovely tone that even the thornier bits of the atonal Seeger and the acerbic Hindemith works come across as elegant, even mellow. The truth is, both are full of beautiful and arresting music, and as these performances show, all it takes is a group willing to play them that way. This is particularly noticeable in the evocative Andante of Seeger's quartet--a brief work lasting barely 12 minutes in all, but one full of unusual textures and imaginative ideas. Similarly, the Hindemith never has sounded so warmly expressive. Its opening Fugato isn't just a neo-classical counterpoint exercise but a lyrical movement sculpted from long, flowing lines, while rude gestures in the second and fourth movements have plenty of guts but never for a moment turn gratuitously coarse.

This last observation holds particular relevance in considering Janácek's Second Quartet, a work of high drama and intense passion that some quartets make positively ugly. Indeed, you might at first find the Pacifica Quartet too smooth, but that impression turns out to be mistaken as the work proceeds. Consider, for example, the hysterical outburst midway through the third movement, with the violin screaming above a pulsating accompaniment. Not only does the passage erupt with all of the necessary violence and abruptness, but you can actually hear the individual components of the rhythmic underpinning below the wailing violin. Usually, the passage comes off as a blur. The Pacifica players also adopt an entirely appropriate and stylish use of portamento to give Janácek's melodic lines an extra touch of expressivity. Only the finale strikes me as a touch leisurely, though no less detailed or committed.

Like so many recent Cedille releases, the repertoire is so intelligently chosen (all three works are roughly contemporaneous, dating from 1922-31), so interestingly varied, and the engineering so impressively lifelike, that this disc adds up to considerably more than the sum of its highly enjoyable parts. This is a challenging release, but one that no admirer of top-notch quartet playing will want to miss. It provides an excellent opportunity to get to know music that many collectors might not otherwise rank high on their list of priorities, but that is well worth hearing nonetheless. In short, this is everything that an important new recording should be. [10/10/2006]

--David Hurwitz,

Product Description:

  • Release Date: January 01, 2006

  • UPC: 735131909228

  • Catalog Number: CDR 092

  • Label: Cedille

  • Number of Discs: 1

  • Period: 20th Century

  • Composer: Leoš Janáček, Paul Hindemith, Ruth Crawford Seeger

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Pacifica String Quartet

  • Performer: Brandon Vamos, Masumi Per Rostad, Sibbi Bernhardssohn, Simin Ganatra