Robert de Roos - String Quartets

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ROBERT DE ROOS - String Quartets 2-3-5-7 - Utrecht String Quartet - 0760623161327 - MDG 6031613

Very little is known of Robert de Roos (1907-1976), and as far as I can tell, this CD is the only recording of some of his music on the market today. Surprising when you consider that the output of this Dutch composer was quite impressive and included over 100 compositions in all genres and instrumental combinations. Symphonies, violin concertos, choral works, piano pieces, theatre music, and most importantly 8 string quartets came from that composer's pen. And even more astounding, is the fact that music of this caliber has been ignored or neglected until now.

The four string quartets on this recording can easily equal if not surpass some of the top chamber works written in or around the same time period, that is between 1940 and 1975. Each one demonstrates a high level of imagination and craftsmanship. The fast movements always present a brisk momentum and sense of urgency and rhythmic sharpness, but it's in the slower movements that the composer's talent really exposes itself. For example, the Grave movement of the String Quartet No. 5 is an intense fugue built on steady and long melodic lines that never stumble until they reach their logical conclusion. Also, the Lento, ma con moto agevole of the String Quartet No. 3 has moments of beauty and intricate interplay between the instruments as good as any in the chamber music repertoire. His music is always harmonically challenging, but even when he seems to be pulling in many different directions in tonality, the expressive power within the music seems to pull everything back towards a central point, and the thematic developments always lead back home, harmonically speaking.

The Netherlands chamber ensemble, the Utrecht String Quartet celebrate 10 years this month, after their debut in London in April 2000. They are known for their versatility and devotion, and they are always hard at work participating in all the major chamber-music series that take place around the globe. They have made many fine recordings for the MDG label, of music by composers as diverse as Tchaikovsky and Van Delden, all of which have received excellent reviews from important periodicals.

I strongly recommend this CD to any string quartet devotees or any admirers of 20th century music for that matter. Expressive, imaginative, detailed, powerful and challenging, are but some of the attributes of the music of Robert de Roos that I can think of, and I am convinced that once you hear these quartets, you will find many more flattering adjectives to attach to his music.

Jean-Yves Duperron