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Hyperion Records

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Panorama del Giardino di Boboli by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot (1796-1875)
Track(s) taken from CDH55426
Recording details: February 1993
St George's, Brandon Hill, United Kingdom
Produced by Andrew Keener
Engineered by Keith Warren & Nick Morgan
Release date: October 1993
Total duration: 26 minutes 27 seconds

'A rarity of great charm and sincerity … a fine disc in excellent sound' (Classic CD)

'The Arensky Quartet is a lovely piece … performance and sound are superb. I cannot imagine better performances of either the Tchaikovsky or the Arensky' (Fanfare, USA)

String Quartet No 2 in A minor, Op 35
composer
for violin, viola and two cellos; dedicated to the memory of Tchaikovsky; the second movement theme is from the Legend of Tchaikovsky's Op 54 Children's Songs

Moderato  [10'11]
Finale  [4'08]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Encouraged by his mother, herself an excellent pianist, Anton Arensky had already started composing by the time he was nine years old. He entered the St Petersburg Conservatory in 1879, studying composition with Rimsky-Korsakov, and graduated with a gold medal in only three years. He subsequently became a professor of harmony and counterpoint at the Moscow Conservatory where his pupils were to include Rachmaninov, Scriabin and Glière. In 1895 he became Director of the the Imperial Chapel in St Petersburg, a post he held for six years and which he left with a generous pension which allowed him to compose. But Arensky had for years been addicted to drinking and gambling; undermined by this lifestyle his health disintegrated and, at the age of 45, he died of tuberculosis.

The Quartet, Opus 35, for violin, viola and two cellos is dedicated to the memory of Tchaikovsky. By his use of quotation Arensky suggests a simple but effective programme, which acts both as a moving homage to the older composer and as a monument to Arensky’s own unique skill and imagination. The first movement, both tender and passionate, opens and closes with the simple theme of an orthodox psalm. This theme is developed and elaborated in the course of the movement, and its sombre, funereal atmosphere exploits the deep sonority offered by the unusual scoring. The central variations, based on Tchaikovsky’s ‘Legend’ (from Children’s Songs Op 54) and now more familiar in their later arrangement for string orchestra, are a personal tribute to his friend and mentor. Arensky seems to be most at ease with this form, embellishing the theme skilfully with both wit and pathos. The Finale is most unusual. Its opening theme, from a Russian funeral Mass, gives way to a celebratory folksong associated with the coronation and majesty of the Tsar and previously used by Beethoven in his Quartet Op 59 No 2 and by Mussorgsky in Boris Godounov. By using this music in this context Arensky is perhaps crowning Tchaikovsky ‘Tsar of Music’, and paying his greatest tribute.

from notes by Tim Boulton © 1993

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