This release was something of a surprise. Naxos has released many recordings of Richard Danielpour’s music. So when I received a copy of this set of string quartets, I assumed that Naxos had also recorded and release the previous four.

Not so. Not only are these world premiere recordings of Danielpour’s latest string quartets, but they also appear to be the only recording of any of his quartets.

Danielpour’s renowned for his operas and vocal works. That same lyricism infuses these chamber works. Each quartet is masterfully constructed, and take the listener on sonically rewarding journeys.

String Quartet No. 5 is subtitled “In Search of La vita nuova.” According to Danielpour, this 2004 quartet represents his long love affair with Italy. But there’s little overtly Italian in the music. Rather, Danielpour distills the refreshing vitality of the region and presents it in his own musical language.

The sixth quartet “Addio,” is concerned with families, and how they eventually pull apart. While not readily apparent in this recording, as the quartet progresses, three of the players leave the stage and play from the sidelines. Danielpour quotes from Beethoven’s “Adieux” sonata, Straus’ “Four Last Songs” and Mahler’s Ninth Symphony (each concerned with leaving). Danielpour’s own tonal style lets him seamlessly weave these quotes into his music.

The last quartet, “Psalms of Solace” is inspired by a search for the divine. Its final movement features a soprano singing an amalgam of Biblical texts.

The Delray Quartet is a relatively new ensemble, yet they play with the cohesiveness of a much older group. They have a smooth ensemble blend. Even when one instrument is featured, it seems more “first among equals” than soloist + accompaniment.

Hila Pittmann is a fine singer. My one complaint is that sometimes her voice gets buried in the mix, making it difficult to clearly hear the lyrics.

All in all, though, a fine recording of modern string quartets that would fit in a mainstream chamber music program. I wonder what the first four quartets sound like…

Richard Danielpour
String Quartets Nos. 5-7
Delray String Quartet; Hila Piltmann, soprano
Naxos 8.559845