PETR EBEN (1929-2007): Piano Quintet, String Quartet “Labyrinth of the World and Paradise of the Heart”, Piano Trio.

Catalogue Number: 09T048

Label: Supraphon

Reference: SU 4323-2

Format: CD

Price: $18.98

Description: The quartet is one of two works that Eben based on "Labyrinth of the world and Paradise of the Heart" by Jan Komenský (Johann Comenius). The composer's idiom encompasses various degrees of mid-20th century modernity, always with a core of tonality. The outer movements represent the outer world, with its tensions, complications and strife, while the central two are more consonant and meditative, suggesting the peace and songlike meditation to which we aspire. The Trio is more overtly tonal, though by no means 'lighter'; it was composed during a difficult time for Eben, and much of the music is redolent of unease and protest. The slow movement strikingly juxtaposes a funeral march for the piano with waltz figures from the strings. Much of the piece, in fact, exploits the tension between piano and string duo in a dramatic first movement, an expressive 'intermezzo', the contrasts of the third movement and the agitated finale, with something of the motoric, driven quality of Martinů. The Quintet is similar in character and vocabulary to the Trio, though less angst-ridden. Nonetheless the energetic initial movement is amply dramatic, and the finale is lively, with syncopated accents propelling a dancing perpetuum mobile with frequent metrical changes. The slow movement is a melodic lament, with a tense, agitated undercurrent; persistent motivic use of the interval of a seventh prevents any real feeling of repose. The three main movements are separated by intermezzi in completely contrasting timbres, the first in pizzicati (including a few plucked notes from the piano), the second a subdued little staccato study for the piano, which leads into the finale. Martinů Quartet, Karel Košárek (piano).

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