SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews

TCHAIKOVSKY: String Quartets Vol. 2 = No. 3, Op. 30 and Children’s Album Op. 39 – Utrecht String Quartet – MD&G

A very listenable disc of lesser-known Tchaikovsky.

Published on October 31, 2013

TCHAIKOVSKY: String Quartets Vol. 2 = No. 3, Op. 30 and Children’s Album Op. 39 – Utrecht String Quartet – MD&G

TCHAIKOVSKY: String Quartets Vol. 2 = No. 3, Op. 30 and Children’s Album Op. 39 – Utrecht String Quartet – MD&G multichannel (2+2+2) SACD 903 1798-6, 65:24 [Distr. by E1] [10/22/13] ****:

The No. 3 String Quartet was the last of the composer’s three quartets, this one composed in 1876. It was dedicated to his friend and colleague at the Moscow Conservatory, Czech violinist Frederick Laub. The quartet was first performed at a party in a friends home, and then first publicly played on March 18, 1876.  After early performances, Tchaikovsky switched the second and third movements, moving the somber Andante Funebre to the third position.

The opening movement is the longest and the most complex. It begins with a slow introduction that leads to a brighter Allegro moderato. From that point, the music exudes grief and longing and then returning to the opening Andante sostenuto.

The finale, in a simple rondo form, leads to an upbeat finale which is a celebration of life itself. When people first heard this quartet, they were moved to tears. It was played several times at memorial concerts when the composer died 17 years later.  The music is thoughtful and flowing throughout, exuberant in the 4th final movement. The performance by the Utrecht String Quartet is excellent.

The other work on the disc is The Children’s Album, Op. 39. Originally 24 short pieces for piano, this is a string quartet arrangement by Dubinsky. Tchaikovsky felt a need for more music for children, and had been impressed with the works of Robert Schumann. The Children’s Album is dedicated to the composer’s seven year old nephew. The pieces are not for children to play, even in the piano version, but were rather written for children and adults to listen to and enjoy. The transcription is very well done, and serves the music well.

The recording of these works is excellent, with just the right balance of concert hall ambience while preserving the location of the instruments. I listened to both the CD and SACD layer. While both sound similar, I appreciated the slight sheen to the strings that SACD reproduces so nicely.

This disc is a fine representation of these Tchaikovsky lesser-known works. The transcription of the Children’s Album sounds natural as if the original music had been written for a string quartet. All in all, a fine performance and a fine recording.

—Mel Martin




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