Fine playing but a variable offering of Polish Romantics

Lutosławski Quartet: Kurpiński, Moniuszko, Noskowski

The Strad Issue: September 2023

Description: Fine playing but a variable offering of Polish Romantics

Musicians: Lutosławski Quartet

Works: Kurpiński: Fantasy in C major. Moniuszko: String Quartets: no.1 in D minor; no.2 in F major. Noskowski; Variations on a theme by Viotti

Catalogue number: NAXOS 8573978

Composing his First Quartet while still a student, Stanisław Moniuszko (1819–72) seems to have opened the scores of Chopin’s piano concertos and virtually copied out the string parts. At the time, who better for him to emulate? The country fair-style finale is good fun, done with a light touch by the Lutosławski Quartet, and in the Second Quartet (apparently from the same time, 1837–40) Moniuszko learns from the mistakes of the First, pares back his ideas and develops them more thoughtfully towards a deliciously Mendelssohnian, throwaway finale. It’s still no neglected masterpiece, but both engineering and playing are more lively and more forwardly engaged than the Camerata Quartet on the label Dux.

The forgettable conventions of Noskowski’s ‘Viotti’ Variations (1873) will not detain you long, despite every effort on the part of the performers to invest them with dynamic contrast and strident drama. From a full half century earlier, it is the Fantasy by Karol Kurpiński that counts as a discovery of substance. The discursive form elicits bold harmonies, dramatic questions and unexpected answers much as it did for Mozart on the keyboard a generation earlier. The tonal refinement and fastidious vibrato control of the Lutosławski Quartet is worthy of its namesake.