DANIELPOUR String Quartets Nos 5 - 7
As with his symphonies and concertos, Richard Danielpour (b1956) likes to give his quartets (there are seven, spread fairly evenly through his career) descriptive titles. No 5 (2004) bears the sobriquet In Search of La vita nuova, a quotation from Dante indicative of Danielpour’s longstanding love of Italy, where it and its successor, Addio (2009), were composed. The Fifth’s three modest movements, written for and intended to give pleasure primarily, follow a moderate-fast-slow pattern repeated but extended in No 6, an altogether more ambitious work with a gravity missing from the Fifth. Danielpour writes in the notes that the Sixth ‘narrates the story of how families are eventually broken apart through distance, time, and ultimately through death’; the close of the opening movement has the same moving simplicity as Barber’s Adagio (originally written as part of a string quartet), but without the melodic distinction.
Overall, the Sixth is a fine, if – at 28 minutes – overlong achievement, its coda a set of variations where the players leave the stage one by one until the cellist alone remains, the others accompanying the final bars offstage. I was less taken by Quartet No 7, Psalms of Solace (2014), described as ‘the search for the Divine’ via the ‘intellect, the force of will, and romantic love’, culminating in the finale’s prayer with its soprano solo, powerfully sung here by Hila Plitmann. The music is often expressively static, irrespective of the amount of surface detail; if the search was in vain it strikes me that Danielpour’s heart was not in it. That certainly cannot be said of the Delray Quartet, whose advocacy is totally committed. Naxos’s sound is rather airless and two-dimensional but perfectly clear.