Home | Reviews | Articles | Festivals | Competitions | Other | Contact Us

Tigran Mansurian String Quartets

String Quartet N° 1 (1983-1984)
String Quartet N° 2 (1984)

Rosamunde Quartett

ECM New Series 1905 [May 2004: 49'26"]

Here is an exceptional CD; please do not be put off by its brevity or by its forbidding cover image - the music is nostalgic but not dark.

The Armenian composer Tigran Mansurian (b. 1939) has a reticent, gentle compositional manner which suits the string quartet medium perfectly. No barnstorming or dramatics; he is averse to the "exulting gestures" which made Khachaturian so popular. Mansurian never exaggerates to grab or keep your attention. It is music for the home or for intimate recitals. Mansurian's music often has a similar tone as the songs of his 'spiritual father' Komitas the Armenian ethno-musicologist who "collected more than 3.000 folk-songs and freed Armenian musical thought from foreign influences" (q.v.Sokolov's Paris DVD).

Each of the two quartets is some twenty minutes of slow music framing faster central sections. You may find yourself thinking of Beethoven (Op 132's Heiliger Dankgesang), Sibelius's Voces Intimae, early Bartok, Tippett No 2 occasionally, Morton Feldman without his alienating excesses (except to cult devotees) of length and dynamics; soon to forget them all. "Simplicity without naivety".

But equally worlds away from the static, repetitive 'holy simplicity' ethic of Pärt or Tavener. This is short music which paradoxically sounds long, and invites repeated listening to get it into your system. You need to savour and remember each melodic and harmonic flowering of simple, memorable ideas, treated with unassertive mastery and "economical handling of motivic materials and thematic intrconnections" (All my quotes from H-K Jungheinrich's helpful essay).

Read too the revealing on-line interview with the members of the Rosamunde Quartet, Andreas Reiner and Simon Fordham violins, Helmut Nicolai viola and Anja Lechner cello.

Matthew Barley (cello) & Stephen De Pledge (piano) will be including Tigran Mansurian's Sonata No. 2 in their Wigmore Hall recital 27 September.


© Peter Grahame Woolf