• BBC R3 NGAs 2012: A Third Polish Quartet

A third Polish string quartet has become a member of BBC Radio 3’s New Generation Artist scheme.  The appointment of the Apollon Musagète Quartett (2012-14) follows on from the successes of the Karol Szymanowski Quartet (2001-03) and the Royal Quartet (2004-06).  Both the Szymanowski and Royal quartets have since made distinguished careers, although of the three only the Royal Quartet still seems to be based in Poland.

All three quartets are active in the recording studio.  The Royal Quartet’s CD of the three Górecki quartets (2011) has been critically acclaimed, and its follow-up CD of the quartets by Lutosławski and Penderecki is due for release early next year.  Even more imminent is the Szymanowski Quartet’s recording with Jonathan Plowright of Zarębski’s Piano Quintet and Żeleński’s Piano Quartet.  All of these recordings are on Hyperion.

I’ve not been able to find out anything about the Apollon Musagète Quartett prior to its founding in Vienna in 2006, so I don’t know what the players’ Polish roots are.  Its Polish repertoire includes works by core composers – the two Szymanowski quartets, Bacewicz’s First Piano Quintet, Lutosławski’s Quartet, Górecki’s First, Penderecki’s Der unterbrochene Gedanke and Third Quartet – and also a few surprises: Żeleński’s Variations on an Original Theme, and arrangements of a cappella choral pieces by the Renaissance composer Wacław z Szamotuł and of two piano études by Chopin.  The Apollon Musagète Quartett is due to release a CD on the Oehms Classics label next year of quartets by Lutosławski, Górecki and Penderecki.

It would be good to learn of plans by any of these quartets to take up the music of Polish composers of their own generation.  There have already been some interesting collaborations outside the standard chamber-music repertoire.  Perhaps the most intriguing venture by the Apollon Musagète Quartett has been with Tori Amos, touring with her and contributing to the Night of Hunters CD (2011).

Cue not-too-wobbly video of ‘Shattering Sea’ from a tour date at the Manchester Apollo.


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