Magazine article Gramophone

Laks: String Quartet No 4

Magazine article Gramophone

Laks: String Quartet No 4

Article excerpt


String Quartet No 4. Divertimento. Piano Sonatina. Concertino. Passacaille. Piano Quintet

ARC Ensemble

Chandos (F) CHAN10983 (83' * DDD)

Volume 3 of the ARC Ensemble's Music in Exile series profiles Szymon Laks, who moved to Paris from Warsaw in the 1920s but was sent in 1942 to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where he immersed himself in musical activities and was spared death and hard labour as a result.

The experience must have been horrific even so. But it's hard to say with any certainty how it infiltrated Laks's music. He was always a pragmatic composer; his background working in cafes and on ships meant his writing in Auschwitz could draw on the 'odeon' technique of orchestrating for any permutation of instruments. The prewar Sonatina for piano (1927) is the most interesting work here; four movements journeying from an austere Moderato built on stringent neoclassical counterpoint to a big-boned Allegro with shades of Debussy's modality.

Laks's String Quartet No 4 (1962) reveals his geographical loyalties most clearly, with Slavic melodies cast in light, elegant French style and played with an attractive sepia tone. …

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