In Praise of New Laks CS by Messages

Szymon Laks String Quartets
String Quartet No. 3 “On Polish Folk Themes” (1945); String Quartet No. 4 (1962); String Quartet No. 5 (1963).
Messages Quartet: Małgorzata Wasiucionek (violin); Oriana Masternak (violin); Maria Dutka (viola); Beata Urbanek-Kalinowska (cello).
DUX 1286

The recent recording for DUX label by the Messages String Quartet of three strings quartets by Szymon Laks brought a cascade of great reviews to this excellent chamber group from southern Poland. Writing for the prestigious Ruch Muzyczny monthly, Magdalena Dziadek favorably compared the recording by Messages to that of the renowned Silesian Quartet, noting that:

Both recordings are quite different. Kwartet Śląski interpreted the Third String Quartet by Laks by using their enormous experience in performing contemporary music. They approached it objectively, toning down the familiar folk music quotations and instead paid attention to the fullness of sound and the formal layout. The ladies of the Messages Quartet approached it more straightforwardly, presenting the musical quotes in their natural guise. The symphonic approach of the Silesian Quartet was replaced by performance that highlighted the melodic aspects, connecting the phrases together and allowing for finding along the way some interesting details, including humorous endings of various movements. In the Finale, the ladies reached for the imitation of folk music-making, and the mountaineers’ theme gained by being authentically fluctuating in rhythm, portraying a total immersion in dance. The interpretation of this fragment was close to improvisation, not only because of the rhythmic freedom but also because of the spontaneity and joy of music making. This interpretation I found much more to my liking than that of the Silesian Quartet, who turned this Finale into a kind of perpetuum mobile.

Lynn René Bayley in The Art Music Lounge gave a shout out to the Messages’ recording already in the arresting headline, “Hear Laks’ String Quartets Bounce and Glisten!” The review again favors the Messages Quartet’s interpretation of Laks’ quartets as compared to the ARC Ensemble, noting that, “… it’s a delightful reading of Laks’ quirky score. I found myself absolutely captivated by Messages’ suave yet witty interpretation from start to finish. […] Messages plays with plenty of energy, but their instruments also glisten. What a pleasure it is to just bask in their sound!”

Under the title, “La vie est courte, l’art est éternel,” Dominique Lawalrée in her review for Crescendo Magazine noted that the Laks’s Strings Quartets No. 3, 4 and 5 are “magnificently played by the Messages Quartet,” adding that “this high quality music is worthy of discovering, especially when it’s well played and recorded.”

Describing the recent DUX release of Laks’ string quartets the French website Clic Musique! finds that, “The young Messages Quartet ladies play all three of them with elegant bowing, well-etched rhythms, and with a sense of color that makes these quartets brothers of quartets by Tansman or Hindemith, the music of the pure fantasy realm.”

Finally, the blog Klasyczna Płytoteka [Classical Disc Library] sums up the description of Laks’ quartets with the statement, “As far as the interpretation, there are no deficiencies to speak of, but there is a lot to say about the sensitivity and involvement of the Messages Quartet in the task of bringing Laks’ music to the listeners. It’s a good thing that the ladies took up this rarely-performed repertoire.”