Quartetto con forza
Swedish post-war music has made little international headway but this is no fault of Phono Suecia, who have assiduously promoted such composers as those on this disc of string quartets from the past five years. Only Anders Hillborg has a wider profile: his Kongsgaard Variations might seem to be founded more on a mood than an actual theme but these slow-burning variations gradually reveal the “Arietta” from Beethoven’s last piano sonata as their source. While promising more, Per Mårtensson’s First Quartet delivers less – its first three movements setting out motifs that, diverting in themselves, are not distinctive enough to make their eventual synthesis in the “Drama” finale more than the outcome of a logical yet uninvolving process.
Mika Pelo’s piece is far from systematic in its unfolding, the sound strata connecting in a manner more diverse than merely “up” and “down”, with a degree of “charm” in their outlining of a form with more than a hint of the “strange” (that is, unexpected) to its content. The first work here leaves the strongest impression: Mats Larsson Gothe’s Third Quartet owes a debt to Ligeti – the impulsive Ligeti of String Quartet No 1; this is most evident in the pivoting between virtual stasis and intensive activity, generating a momentum as powerful as it is enthralling. All four pieces here have been well served by the fine Stenhammar Quartet, and the quality of sound and booklet-notes makes them all the more worth getting to know.