REVIEW: Prokofiev: String quartets no.1 op.50 & no.2 op.92, Visions fugitives op.22 (arr. Samsonov)


The Strad issue



Electrifying performances that tap the music’s inventiveness


Energie Nove Quartet



Prokofiev’s quartets have tended to remain on the outer fringes of the central performing repertoire: a consequence of his wide-ranging stylistic terms of reference, dazzlingly hyperactive changes of musical direction and intimidating pyrotechnical demands. All of which makes these engrossing accounts from the Energie Nove Quartet – a young ensemble composed of four competition-winning players who are currently section principals with the Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana – particularly welcome. Throughout even the thorniest passages they retain absolute technical composure, knife-edge ensemble and remarkable intonational accuracy.

If the general tendency in this music is to play cool with the music’s essentially neo-Classical profile, the Energie Nove players throw themselves gleefully into the fray, clearly believing in every note. Relishing the music’s bracing inventiveness and chameleon-like changes of mood, they play with an electrifying frisson that provides a vital musical bridge between the impassioned middle-period masterpieces of Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich’s agonising introspection. Music that often appears to lack a strong sense of structural cohesion feels utterly compelling and inevitable here.

Sergei Samsonov’s inspired quartet realisation of the Visions fugitives provides the perfect coupling, and the detailed yet full-bodied recording captures these outstanding performances superbly.