This energetic quartet is from ‘Two Russian Pieces’, and you can find a blisteringly good performance of it on YouTube, which will tell you a lot more about the piece than mere words. However, budding purchasers of the music need to know if it’s right for them, so let’s open the score and say what I see. There is no metronome mark, and a less-skilled quartet would find that the piece still works when taken at a more leisurely pace. A delightfully atmospheric opening sees percussion and a haunting and definitely Russian melody, but the first page of the full score is just a preface to a more dissonant yet not unpleasant development, where some of the inner harmonies are reused as the melody develops. There is a pleasing consistency of form and although the parts are roughly SATB in the pitches they play, there are enough episodes of pitches crossing that all parts have a share in the glory.
A centre section sees a noticeable drop in pace, though the introduction of shorter notes in the accompaniment means that the music stays busy. The centre section begins by taking the opening theme at approximately half speed and allowing it to develop and be decorated.
The final section of the piece reverts to a tempo primo and the characteristic rhythm that underpins the entire work weaves its magic again.
The speed and rhythm of the piece are more an issue than the chord shapes, Which, although taken from a palette that includes flats, sharps and double sharps only seem to move into three-note chords when the shapes are easy. So the music on the page isn’t at all threatening. The part scores are three faces of paper, and each has a thoughtfully chosen page turn that’s easy. Fingering is supplied where needed, and in particular helps one understand that some of the more complex arpeggios are a clever mix of high position and open string notes. With just a few percussion strokes, a gliss or two and some open string harmonics, the piece is not too much of a handful. A Grade 8 ensemble would be comfortable with this piece, though perhaps not at the speed of the version on YouTube.