Russian Contemporary composer Yuri Falik [1936–2009] wrote at least eight string quartets.
The Fifth Quartet, a 21-minute, one movement work is introduced with a most peaceful soundscape as the cello supplies a sparse presence over harmonised strings. This gives way to gentle violin melodies, sparse and with the use of glissando. One violin eventually steps forward, solo, and investigates an abstruse melody. Double stops lead to a gathering of the ensemble behind it and a chaos unfolds. Several different textures occur, all underpinned by differing harmonic backgrounds.
A return to the opening feeling is wonderful and a gentle ensemble pulse allows a solo violin to express a longing melody. A further harmonic change leads to cessation of the pulse and all instruments contribute sparse melodic lines. Now sustained harmonies allow both violins to drift within this soulful soundscape which conveys a marvellous sense of peace. The music slowly edges forward as the introduction of a rumbling cello line concludes this mood.
Two active violins move into a tempo, the sound being of a pastoral nature which eventually grows dynamically for a time before returning to a gentler period. A total mood change follows, with a cello motif supporting some dramatic rhythmic activity from the violins. This is only temporal and a new feeling unfolds with the cello again supporting the violins’ disjointed utterances – the peace remains.
A solo violin section has various ethnic sounding interjections which have a strange ring to their tone. The tension briefly builds, but the previous texture is soon resumed. Now the interjections are those of a busy, rapidly bowed violin and both violins evoke a dramatic atmosphere until the cello starts a motif that leads to a frantic passage. There is a nod to Minimalism here as the violins construct a busy ostinato. Frequent mood changes are now the norm and various frantic moments unfold. The feeling approaches violence as the violins are featured in a false ending, then an exaggerated flurried passage concludes.
The Sixth Quartet is in two named movements. Fanfare is a brief, energised affair which opens with two aggressive violin lines. Some glissandi are heard as the violins drive the movement forward. For a short while the texture drops back to a cello motif, but the violins soon return to create first, a measured section before concluding with some dynamic violin thrusts
Requiem is a ten-minute sustained lament of great beauty. Harmonised cello and violin lines slowly build in intensity but never reach great heights. The introduction of a complementary viola line is pure magic. Sparse, overlapping melodic lines over a sonorous cello create a further luxuriant mood with seemingly no melodic development. This finally reaches a crescendo of strained violin tones. Now the music falls away, to the sound of a shrill, gently rhythmic violin with an occasional cello and melodic violin presence. The piece has become very static and the texture oh so sparse. The shrill violin can be heard over a series of fading harmonies to end this fine work.
The earlier quartets show some similarities but contain more rhythmic and emotional diversity. Conceptually, I consider that the three mentioned movements are so balanced they would make for one tremendous string quartet. I doubt the composer would agree with me…
The review CD, String Quartets Nos. 3,4,5,6, performed by the Taneyev Quartet on the Northern Flowers label is available on Amazon US and UK. I don’t believe the other quartets have been recorded.
Listenability: Basically gentle Modernism.