Lithuanian composer Mikolajus Ciurlionis, equally well known as an artist in his native country, wrote some daring and experimental works before his early death from pneumonia in 1911, at the age of 35. He wrote music with bold tonal disconnections and even some that seems to anticipate Schoenberg's tone row technique, well in advance of the Austrian composer. Both his artworks and his music suggest synaesthetic tendencies. This release of string quartet music, however, consists of student works composed by Ciurlionis in and around the time he attended the Leipzig Conservatory, and it doesn't give a good idea of his style. The Two Canons and Two Fugues at the end of the program certainly reveal a promising composer who manages to infuse these purely academic exercises with a good deal of lyricism. The second movement of the String Quartet in C minor (1902) also shows a melodic gift, but this work has come down to posterity missing its fugal finale, and it's a bit unsatisfying as it stands. The Theme and Variations in B minor is an even earlier work, written while Ciurlionis was a student at the Warsaw Conservatory; it's pretty standard-issue Romantic stuff. You do get one of Ciurlionis' fascinating art nouveau paintings on the cover, and the Vilnius String Quartet gives enthusiastic performances, but mostly this is of interest to students of the composer's style; for an introduction to his work, try the symphonic poem Jüra (The Sea).
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|String Quartet in C minor|
|Theme and Variations in B minor|