NEW RELEASES
EDVARD GRIEG - String Quartets


EDVARD GRIEG - String Quartets 1 & 2 - Fugue in F minor - Meccore String Quartet - 760623199863 - Released: March 2017 - MDG 9031998-6

Smart move by the Meccore String Quartet, a young Polish ensemble, to opt for the String Quartets by Edvard Grieg for their new recording on MDG. And an impressive recording it is with a commanding account of these chamber works. They would have entered an overcrowded or saturated market had they chosen to set off on a new label with a release of chamber works by the big guns like Beethoven, Mozart, Mendelssohn, etc ... But the Grieg quartets have come in contact with microphones on limited occasion (roughly 20 times for No. 1 and 5 times for the unfinished No. 2). Not to say that Edvard Grieg does not, in his own way, measure up to the aforementioned composers but rather that besides the Holberg Suite, Peer Gynt and his Piano Concerto, most of his music has not received the exposure it deserves. He was a master of the short form. Lyrical, colorful, a raconteur. Great at generating emotional impact with vivid imagery. For example, within the first minute of the String Quartet No. 1 in G minor, Op. 27, the music moves from peaceful contemplation to bitter anger (during that period Grieg suspected his wife of having an affair with his brother), which under this ensemble's hands, sounds like outright rage, and to great effect. They dig into the strings and release a cry of despair.

Grieg's writing technique is more concerned with the overall tonal effect as a group rather than defining and refining each individual voice. The player's need to support each other rather than work on precise counterpoint, and the members of the Meccore String Quartet oblige by playing as one in support of the leading line, as it's beautifully done in the slow second movement. Having said all that, this recording also includes the rarely recorded Fugue in F minor. Grieg + Fugue = Counterpoint. Written when he was only 18 as an exercise in composition, it is exceptionally good and worked out around a rather complex initial theme, and not surprisingly ends in typical lyrical Grieg fashion. But it's within the middle segment that the members of the Meccore String Quartet manage to find drama hidden deep inside the counterpoint and infuse the whole fugue with emotive impact. Well done!

Jean-Yves Duperron - May 2017