A second volume of quartets makes a strong case for this Soviet master

Arcadia Quartet: Weinberg

The Strad Issue: July 2022

Description: A second volume of quartets makes a strong case for this Soviet master

Musicians: Arcadia Quartet

Works: Weinberg: String Quartets vol.2: nos.1,7 and 11

Catalogue number: CHANDOS CHAN 20174

Why aren’t these quartets more well known? They deserve to be, displaying as they do consummate writing for this genre. They receive, in this ambient recording, the most persuasive of interpretations, each phrase and nuance nurtured. This second volume from the much-lauded Arcadia Quartet reveals the players as masters of homogenous textures; and in the highly chromatic, dense writing of the First Quartet, which hovers between Romanticism and Expressionism, they produce an effective clarity. To its dreamy second movement, with its nods towards Impressionism, they bring plenty of colour, and the closing Allegro is rhythmically punchy, with a vein of Bartók percolating the motifs.

Tightly worked material is a hallmark of Weinberg’s style. His later music demonstrates this, but with a sparer texture and harmonic language influenced by his friend Shostakovich. Within a structurally cohesive and thematically unified dialogue, this performance really explores the drama of the Seventh Quartet, and draws the listener through the musical plot. The Allegretto is particularly winning, with a bittersweet melancholy – no surprise that this was a movement favoured by the Borodin Quartet as an encore. Linear clarity also characterises the Quartet no.11, and here a judicious use of vibrato allows the lines to impact, not least in the soloistically cast opening, and the reflective yet intricate Allegro leggiero.