Russian Generations 2

Ruysdael Quartet

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Russian Generations 2 Review

by Mike D. Brownell

Following on the intriguing program of its first disc, the Ruysdael Quartet returns for its second album on Cobra Records and continues the program concept from its first. Entitled Russian Generations, the first volume included the first string quartets of three generations of Russian composers: Tchaikovsky, Sergey Prokofiev, and Gabriel Prokofiev. The present disc, Russian Generations 2, follows the same three composers with their second string quartets. In all cases, the transformation that occurs between first and second quartets is rather remarkable. Tchaikovsky's second quartet, in particular, is a much gloomier affair despite being in the somewhat "sunny" key of F major. The quartets of Sergey and his grandson Gabriel Prokofiev focus heavily on rhythmic intensity and variation, much more so than even in their first quartets. The Ruysdael Quartet approaches each of these compositions with an admirable level of intensity and commitment to detail. Their blended sound quality is especially enjoyable, with each instrument taking turns coming to the foreground at different points in the music. Overall tone of the quartet is dark and powerful, brilliantly balanced, and possessing an enviable palate of colors. Rhythmic precision, which is absolutely necessary for these works, is present in abundance. Virtually all other technical aspects of the performance are exceptional, save for some curious difficulties in intonation between first and second violins when playing in octaves. The majority of the playing, however, is at an extremely high level and coupled with the thoughtful programming and informative liner notes makes for a highly worthwhile disc.

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