The Strad Issue: March 2016
Description: Intimacy and Expressionism in a trio of Finnish string quartet works
Musicians: Kamus Quartet
Composer: Kaipainen; Sibelius; Tiensuu

Much of the intensity in the late Jouni Kaipainen’s Seventh String Quartet is apparently rooted in the ‘steamy’ love affair of King David and Bathsheba in Volter Kilpi’s novel about the couple. Kilpi’s Expressionist literary style charges through Kaipainen’s 13-minute score – severe, sturdy, Schoenbergian – until it reaches a place of gentle lyricism. The Kamus Quartet is just as ferocious and uncompromising.

The group’s tense, jumpy style is also well suited to the Allegretto and final Allegro movements of Sibelius’s ‘Intimate Voices’: the players have the inside track on all those familiar Sibelian shapes and patterns in the former movement. But I’m not sure the sound works in Sibelius’s Adagio di molto. There’s a difference between tension and tenacity, and this movement would benefit from being calmed down, slowed down and injected with more fresh air and space.

The Kamus Quartet’s sense of ensemble and purpose is never in doubt, even when tested in Jukka Tiensuu’s Rack – a work in which a wind seems to blow through a single, 16-stringed instrument (the composer deliberately avoids the description ‘string quartet’). It’s a delicate, decorative piece, even if it’s ultimately less cohesive than its two companions here. The disc is well recorded but a little close, especially given the beautiful acoustic potential of the recording venue, the Schauman Hall in Jakobstad.

Andrew Mellor