Classic CD

It is remarkable that these seem to be the first recordings of these very strong works by the Catalan composer who combined the influence of his teacher Schoenberg with folk sources, and who escaped from the Franco regime to settle in Britain. Before the Gerhard centenary of 1996 there was virtually nothing by him in the catalogue, and the recordings and performances that resulted have done something to raise him to something like his rightful place among major twentieth-century composers. Peter Sheppard Skæved of the Kreutzer Quartet laments the lack of a performing tradition for the quartets. This seems to be the Schoenberg problem magnified several times – there isn’t much of a performing tradition or recorded legacy for his string quartets either, at least compared to Bartók or Shostakovich.

Roberto Gerhard’s most distinctive music appeared in his last decade – a late efflorescence echoing Janácek’s – when he had transcended Schoenberg’s influence and the others which that involved. His quartet output of only two mature works straddles that divide. The first, premiered in 1956, uses Gerhard’s personal 12-note technique with dense thematic working. The second, from 1960-62, is in a continuous single movement which abandons themes in favour of textures. For this listener at least its impact is more immediate, the Kreutzer’s interpretation totally compelling. Textures are often slow-moving and quiet, but the final section raise the excitement level with a conclusion over a pulsating ostinato. Metier are again to be commended for their exploration of neglected repertoire… Powerful Performances of astonishingly neglected quartets.
Performance ***** Sound *****

—Andy Hamilton