SZYMANOWSKI; DEBUSSY String Quartets
How do you like your Szymanowski: Romantic sunset or modernist dawn? On its second release, the Meccore Quartet – an impressive Polish ensemble – opts very much for the latter. These are performances that relish the sheer strangeness of this music: sharp angles, tangy dissonances, sul ponticello shivers and high energy. Very high energy, in fact, and the Meccores certainly have the virtuosity to sustain it. Listen to the control of Jarosaw Nadrzycki’s slightly metallic-sounding violin at the very opening of the First Quartet, and the bravura with which the group throw themselves at the dizzying slides from about 2'55" in the scherzo of the Second.
That’s both the greatest strength and the most significant weakness of this disc. Virtuosity is a prerequisite for the Szymanowski quartets but it’s not enough in itself, and there are too many moments here where the Meccores seem to be creating only a dazzling surface; too many details just thrown away in music where every note should speak. Warner’s resonant sound (the disc was recorded in the Kielce Philharmonic Hall) only adds to the sense that these are big public statements designed for a large venue rather than the intimate confessions you’ll find on, say, the Carmina Quartet’s Gramophone Award-winning set from 1991.
The coupling is a brisk, forthright account of Debussy’s Quartet, recorded during the same sessions, and with similar qualities and failings. It’s an intelligent choice, but again, the playing lacks that last ounce of inwardness and poetry, and the Meccores face far stronger competition here than in the Szymanowski. It won’t disappoint: this is a polished disc, containing vivid, committed performances. But it’s possible to dig deeper.