Encore: Music from the Monkey Mountains, and a violinist who dreamed of the organ

A promising debut CD from the Pavel Haas Quartet

The second movement of Pavel Haas's Second String Quartet is an unusually evocative piece of music. The movement is subtitled "Coach, Coachman and Horse" and is a clever musical evocation of a man driving a squeaky old horsecart - as you listen it is not hard to imagine the cart lurching slowly forwards.

The whole quartet has an intriguing subtitle "From the Monkey Mountains", a nickname for the Vysocina region in Moravia, not far from Brno, which was, and still is, a popular summer vacation area. All four movements of the quartet, written when the composer was 26, were inspired by his summer holidays. The first movement beautifully conjures up the atmosphere of a lazy summer afternoon.

The quartet is performed by The Pavel Haas String Quartet on a new Supraphon CD. This is a new and young ensemble which has named itself after the composer. Pavel Haas was a pupil of Leos Janacek, whose influence is felt strongly in his music. During the war he was interned in the Terezin Ghetto and died in Auschwitz in 1944 at the age of just 43, one of many Czech composers who perished in the Holocaust.

This is the group's debut album, paired with Janacek's so-called "Intimate Letters" Quartet, and it is a very promising debut indeed.

A violinist who composed for the organ

And now we turn to organ music by another composer from Moravia, Milos Sokola, who lived from 1913 till 1976. He spent his career as a violinist in the orchestra of the National Theatre, composing more or less on the side. It is unusual for a violinist to be composing for such a spectacularly different instrument, but when you listen - for example to his wonderfully dramatic Toccata for Organ - it is more than clear that he knew the organ's potential very well indeed. You can get to know his music better on a set simply titled "Four Pieces for Organ", performed by Vaclav Rabas.

 

CDs reviewed in this programme are provided by Siroky Dvur