When Alexander Grechaninov died in 1956 aged 92, he bequeathed to the musical world, a vast treasure of almost a thousand works in practically every genre. United into more than 200 opuses, his output includes opera, symphonies, vocal cycles, children's piano pieces, sacred and liturgical works and a considerable array of chamber compositions.
His childhood musical education was a sedate affair, until aged 17 he entered the Moscow Conservatoire against his father's wishes. Between 1881 and 1890 he studied with such eminent composers as Arensky and Sergei Taneyev. In 1893 he completed his education at the St. Petersburg Conservatoire and graduated from the composition class led by Rimsky-Korsakov.
His musical influence was heavily influenced by his migration to Paris in 1925 and subsequently to America in 1939 where he eventually died. Throughout his long years in exile, Grechaninov remained faithful to his country and retained the friendship of many Russian acquaintances as well as his passport although his music suffered much neglect after his demise.
Surprisingly, Grechaninov wrote only four string quartets with the latter two on this disc. The Third in C minor was written in 1915 and inhabits the harmonic and counterpoint tendencies of the Second composed a year earlier. In spite of this similarity, the composer strives for complexity and perfection of form, both of the work as a whole and of its component for movements.
The Fourth in F dates from 1929, and is perhaps the best of the four. Grechaninov wrote it when he was 65 and wanted it to be a sort of thanksgiving hymn to life and fate. Although full of energetic and lyric moments, the quartet stands out for its masterly first movement which is reminiscent of Beethoven.
The Utrecht String Quartet plays superbly and they are fervent advocates of these wonderful pieces.
Copyright © 2006, Gerald Fenech