Gorecki: String quartets (Naxos)
★★★★ (out of five)
Ever wonder what Henryk Mikolai Górecki did before he hit the jackpot with that million-selling third symphony?
The sage of Katowice never stuck to any doctrine or style, allowing himself to develop from modernism to minimalism and all points between. His first string quartet, commissioned by Kronos in 1988, is titled ‘Already it is dusk’ and appears to lament the dying day in meditative fragments, as if to suggest that nothing is ever finished.
The second quartet, written three years later, bears the title ‘Quasi una fantasia’ and emerges slowly, hypnotically, from the simplest of themes. In between the two, you can experience the 12-minute adrenalin rush of Elementi for string trio, a work which is so fanatically 1960s it could almost pass for white noise. You’d never mistake it for one of Gorecki’s greatest hits and it will never get played on Snooze Classics FM.
I really like these performances by the Tippett Quartet, less emphatic and showbizzy than the Kronos version, allowing the music to find its inner rhythm. Recorded in an English country church, it sounds just right.