With its opening E flat minor triad, against which the viola (one of his favourite instruments) unfolds a melody, the third string quartet belongs in a completely different world than that of its predecessor forty years earlier. It provides a retrospective if not sentimental glance at his preoccupations over this period. There is the halting, sometimes grotesque waltz based on a repeated minor third. There are also passages where his sonoristic heterophony seems to have been recast in diatonic terms. There is even, in the latter stages, a recollection of a gypsy violin tune that apparently his father played to him in his childhood. Above all, the third string quartet, despite a clear recapitulation of the minor-third waltz section, bears the hallmark of the composer’s restless switching from one idea or tempo to the next. Penderecki’s three string quartets therefore have more in common than might at first appear, and they embody the concept that an artist may change style but not character.
from notes by Adrian Thomas © 2013