The Energie Nove String Quartet is composed of four principal instrumentalists of the Orchestra della Svizzera italiana (Lugano, Switzerland). The quartet takes its name from an early 20th-century Italian literary journal. Like the journal, Energie Nove seek to express the dynamism and the energy of the new. The members of the quartet have each won numerous competitions and performed at the highest level. As musicians, they are passionate about the string quartet and have come together to animate the music through new and creative interpretations.
Their close collaboration with the Swiss National Radio resulted in the present recording of Prokofiev’s two string quartets and ”Visions fugitives”, and will include a series of concerts demonstrating the history of the string quartet. The Energie Nove also work with the Swiss National Television (SRG SSR ) and have been featured in the recent video production of Beethoven’s Quartets op. 74 and op. 95. Their future television output will include a quintet collaboration with the pianist Alexander Lonquich.Lately, they have joined forces with the famous pianist Ivo Pogoreliæ in a series of concerts dedicated to Chopin.
The Quartet No, 1 in B minor Op. 50 was composed in 1930 on the commission of the famous American patron Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge. Prokofiev had no experience in quartet writing, then, and welcome as the commission must have been for the earnings it brought, it also obliged him to test a new field of action, and had as immediate consequence his intense reading of Beethoven’s Quartets, mostly made during his train transfers between cities in the U.S, where at the time he was giving a series of concerts. The Quartet No. 1 is one of Prokofiev’s most intense and wonderful compositions; not by chance, in his book on the Russian composer, Piero Rattalino defines it a ”masterpiece”. The work was first performed by the Brosa Quartet on 25th April 1931 at Washington’s Library of Congress.
Exactly ten years later, in 1941, Prokofiev composed his second and last string quartet, in F major, published as Op. 92. In that period, Prokofiev, together with other Russian composers, had been transferred away from the war zones, to the village of Naltchick, in the North Caucasus. In Naltchick, the composer came into contact with the local folklore, which the region’s relative isolation had preserved virtually unblemished, and decided to test a sort of fusion between the most classical of ensembles, the string quartet, and the musical traditions of the Caucasian republic. The result was this Quartet No. 2, which trespasses into the territory of writing procedures typical of another great composer, Prokofiev’s contemporary, Béla Bartók. The recovery of themes taken from popular music was, as a matter of fact, one of the pillars, then, of Soviet ideology applied to music.
Despite that, when the Quartet No. 2 was premièred by the Beethoven Quartet at the small hall of the Moscow Conservatory on 5th September 1942. The CD also includes the Visions fugitives Op. 22. This is the adaptation for string quartet, made in 1995 by Sergei Samsonov, of one of the most famous of Prokofiev’s piano collection, a series of 20 little pieces, some of them extremely short, which the musician had written between 1915 and 1917, drawing inspiration from two verses of the symbolist poet Constantin Balmont: ”In every fugitive vision I see worlds / full of the changing play of rainbow hues.”