The buoyantly air-lofted Vivace of No. 1 is a delight in motion. It passes the baton seamlessly to a contentedly Dvořákian Adagio and the following Theme with Variations. The finale bustles along carefree with the language sometimes rather like RVW in his first published quartet. The Second Quartet is also in four movements. The music is still tonal but dynamic and emotionally pressurised in the outer movements. A opulently complex fondant lyricism reaches out touchingly in the second movement. The little scherzo again has that winning RVW tinge and buzzing effervescence. Dynamic eagerness and angst are at work in the finale.
…Pizzetti is less uninhibitedly melodic. Pizzetti sings very touchingly…but he builds tension and anxiety first and invests ideas and effort in doing so. The Second[’s] high tensile atmosphere is something that resolutely draws the listener in. In the final five minutes Pizzetti proves a satisfying singer of what amounts to an anthem bathed in repletion and triumph.
The Lajtha Quartet are dedicated exponents and are warmly and closely recorded. The heat of their possessed music-making is unmistakable. An event!
Two grown-up and opulently complex tonal string quartets to add to your collection of 20th century chamber music.
In reviewing the Naxos release of Pizzetti’s Piano Trio, I commented that I would hope this series will rectify his neglect that even extends to his own country. The two string quartets were composed twenty-six years apart in the first half of the 20th century. He was not a composer who moved with the times, and had settled into a late-Romantic mode when the First Quartet appeared in 1906. Coming in direct descent of Tchaikovsky and Dvořák, with Puccini’s influence on Italian music stimulating the lyric quality, the result is an easily attractive score. By the time of the Second Quartet Pizzetti had at least taken one small step towards modernity with harmonies that were less luxurious but still purely tonal, the outer movements complex as numerous strands are intertwined to create the chromatic intensity. Sadness pervades the slow movement, the violin often ‘singing’ over an accompaniment. Joy returns in a bubbly scherzo, with Dvořák’s influence reappearing in the finale. Recorded around the time that the Lajtha Quartet from Hungary disbanded, they found the Second rather searching in terms of intonation, but they were enthusiastic and committed performers.