LEONARD SALZEDO (1921-2000): String Quartets No. 1, Op. 1, No. 5, Op. 32/1 and No. 10, Op. 140.
Catalogue Number: 12U012
Description: A fine and original composer who wrote in a fairly conservative, tonal idiom for his time, and yet managed to make it sound fresh and personal, thanks in no small part to his gift for melody and impeccable and inventive harmonic skill, Salzedo had a distinguished and high profile career from an early stage - orchestral works performed by Beecham, a regular contributor to the repertoire of major ballet companies, writer of scores for Hammer films, with an impressive roster of orchestral and ensemble works to his credit. A string player, it is no accident that the quartet medium, written for with complete technical mastery, was a staple throughout his career. The First Quartet was an astonishingly accomplished student work. The material for the single-span quartet is presented early on, a characteristic ploy of the composer's. The use of harmony and rhythm is imaginative, and perpetuum mobile passages, which also became something of a trademark, generate considerable momentum and excitement in the work's later stages. Salzedo regarded the Fifth Quartet as one of his finest works. This unusually structured, highly inventive work is in two sections. So natural is the string writing that it obscures the sheer compositional virtuosity with which the composer employs the full technical resources of the instruments. Part one is restless and insistent, gradually brightening toward an eloquent, radiant conclusion. Part two is a series of increasingly vigorous dances, joyous and life-affirming. A striking central section evokes the composer's Sephardic heritage, in unusual textures and harmonies, and the piece ends with a kind of tumultuous tarantella. Salzedo's final quartet, written in 1997 for the present ensemble, is, like the First, in a large single span subdivided into sections. The opening is a spirited perpetuum mobile, followed by an extended, anguished melody accompanied by keening upper voices. An extraordinary pizzicato scherzo follows, effectively turning the quartet into a percussion ensemble, and the final allegro con spirito in lively, intrcate counterpoint brings the work to a triumphant conclusion. Archaeus Quartet.