IVÁN ERÖD (b.1936): String Quartets No. 1, Op. 18, No. 2, Op. 26 and No. 3, Op. 78.
Catalogue Number: 01U051
Description: Three fine quartets by a composer of real originality, working in a tonal-modal idiom adapted to his personal voice, and indebted to Kodály (with whom he studied), Bartók, and Hungarian folk music. After a couple of early quartet works, Bartók-influenced and then dodecaphonic, Eröd returned to tonality with the intention that "When I write music, I aim for it to be heard and understood. Therefore I have to make use of a language that is at the very least understandable by a fairly large number of people." The First Quartet makes use of a 'gypsy' scale in the second movement, an attractive set of variations, and the rondo finale; the opening movement is in sonata form. The Second Quartet, that followed three years later, is larger, and more emotionally expansive. It's symmetrical five-movement form, pivoting on a central scherzo, recalls Bartók. The first two movements are, respectively, agitated and lamenting; their 'mirror' movements are lyrically lovely and high-spirited. The scherzo is lightweight and elfin, explicitly referencing Mendelssohn in mood and subtitle. The level of dissonance, and polyphonic density, of this quartet are significantly higher than the first, producing a greater degree of emotional intensity, but the work remains entirely tonal and accessible. The Third Quartet, written several decades later, after the composer had settled in rural Hungary following the fall of the Iron Curtain, has no explicit program, but it certainly sounds like the retrospective protest of someone who had witnessed the Nazi occupation of his country and had then been forced to flee the Communists. The work is in four linked movements, beginning with a strident, declamatory opening gesture, followed by a tense, agitated first movement. The tension is maintained throughout the lamenting slow movement, its mournful gestures standing in relief against a strained, dissonant background. The following scherzo initially seems to offer some relief, though even this has its abrasive moments; its closing pages take on a hectoring quality, introducing the material of the uneasy, scurrying finale. Accord Quartet.