Like his more famous compatriot Krzysztof Penderecki, Poland’s Krzysztof Meyer experimented freely with avant-garde musical techniques early in his career before evolving towards more traditional yet still complex and challenging compositional parameters. While he has compiled a large and impressive body of orchestral and vocal work, I find his chamber music most compelling, especially his 12 string quartets, which I rate among the best written during the past four decades. This disc presents his fifth, sixth and eighth string quartets, composed between 1977 and 1985. Each is unique in character and approach, yet they share a dramatic heft and plangent tone found in much Eastern European music. Meyer combines cohesive narrative form and pleasing harmonic symmetry to great effect in each of these works without ever becoming predictable. He keeps the listener pleasingly off balance with contrasting moods, subtle emotional shadings and a wide range of sound colors and textures. Many of the movements unfold with surprising warmth and intimacy; others are more overtly dramatic, with bold, spiky melodic lines punctuated with sharp rhythmic accents. It’s hard to pick a favorite among these quartets—each is emotionally accessible and intellectually stimulating, and given convincing and committed readings by the superb Wieniawski String Quartet.
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