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The Classical Explorer

Chamber Music: June 2008 Archives

Graceful String Quartets

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CPO 999679

(Maddelena) Laura Lombardini Sirmen:
  String Quartet Op. 3 #2 in B Flat Major
  String Quartet Op. 3 #3 in G minor
Emilie Mayer: String Quartet, Op. 14
Fanny Mendelssohn-Hensel: String Quartet in E Flat Major

Erato Quartett Basel
CPO 999679-2 72:23

String quartets by three talented women composers from two different periods are presented on this fine sounding CD by the Erato Quartett Basel (Emilie Haudenschild & Attila Adamka, violins; Heinz Haudenschild, viola; Emeric Kostyak, violoncello). Laura Sirmen's (1745-1818) are the earliest, having elements of both late Baroque and early Classical period. Sirmen's graceful string quartets were published in the same year (1769) as Haydn's Op. 9 string quartets.

Fanny Mendelssohn-Hensel (1805-1847) was discouraged from publishing her compositions (under her own name) for most of her adult life, although she often worked in close partnership with her brother. This quartet was written in 1834. The second and fourth movements could not have been written by anyone other than a Mendelssohn! If you like the Felix Mendelssohn octet, you will certainly enjoy these lively movements!

Emilie Meyer (1812-1883; Groves: 1821-1883) was a multi-talented woman. She was not only a very prolific composer, but she was also a respected sculptor. Grove's Dictionary mentions among her compositions nine sonatas for violin and thirteen for cello, eleven piano trios, and seven string quartets. This quartet has the rich texture that inner-voice string players love: there is something interesting for every part. The second movement contains joyous and exciting (Mendelssohnian) motion. The third movement quotes a chorale tune and weaves variations around it, stylistically reminiscent of the finale of Felix Mendelssohn's Piano Trio #2, Op. 66. The Meyer string quartet closes with a pleasing finale and the entire quartet not only provides good listening but it also would be an excellent repertoire addition for string quartet players.

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Czech Piano Trios

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Supraphon 3603

Josef Bohuslav Foerster
(1859-1951)

Piano Trio #1 in F minor, Op. 8 (26:33)
Piano Trio #2 in B Flat Major, Op. 38 (25:30)
Piano Trio #3 in A minor, Op. 105 (24:11)

Foerster Trio
Supraphon SU3603-2

If you are interested in hearing how a Romantic composer develops his "voice" over a period of almost forty years, this is the CD for you. The early trios (1882 & 1894) are very much in the tradition of Antonín Dvořák's chamber music, and the last movement of Op.38 has the emotional tension and lyrical beauty of Dvořák's own Piano Quartet Op. 23, second movement. The first two Foerster trios also make fine use of the folk-like rhythms and melodies that many other Czech composers of the period explored.

But the third piano trio (1919/21) is a subtle leap into the later Romantic period. It is still very melodious, it is still very tonal, and it is still beautiful, but there is an added depth of emotion. This is the finest of the three trios, and it can be all the more appreciated when heard after the other two.

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[ Sheet music by this composer: Sheet Music Plus - Musicnotes.com ]

Chamber Music by Roussel

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Brilliant Classics 8413

Albert Roussel
(1869-1937)

Complete Chamber Music

Partial list of works:
String Quartet; String Trio Op. 58; Piano Trio Op. 2; Violin Sonatas Opp. 11 & 28; Serenade for Flute, String Trio & Harp Op. 30; Divertissement Op. 6; Trio for Flute, Viola & Cello, etc.
Performers: Jet Roeling, piano; Jean-Jacque Kantorow, violin; Herre-Jan Stegenga, cello; Hans Roerade, oboe; Paul Verhey, flute; Frank van den Brink, clarinet; Herman Jeurissen, horn; Jos de Lang, bassoon; Irene Maessen, soprano; Erika Waardenburg, harp; Jan Goudswaard, guitar; Quirijan van Regteren Altena, double bass; Janneke van der Meer, violin; Wim de Jong, violin; Henk Guittart, viola; Viola de Hoog, cello.
Brilliant Classics 8413 3CDs 67:43, 64:44, 66:31

Roussel's chamber music is filled with delightfully strange and interesting tonality that shifts all over the place but almost always returns "home" for the final chord. Roussel also uses insistent rhythmic accompaniments in many of his works. It's as if there is a motor humming away most of the time, and it gives an active, restless quality to the music.

The second CD contains the Serenade Op. 30 for flute, string trio and harp, and it would serve as an excellent introduction to the chamber music of Roussel. Also not to be missed is the short waltz: Aria #2 for oboe and piano. The third CD contains the charming, immediately accessible Trio for Flute, Viola and Cello. This is a chamber music set to treasure. Brilliant Classics has once again provided us with beautiful performances of fine music at budget prices.

[ Available on CD: Amazon - UK - Germany - Canada - France - Japan - ArkivMusic - CD Universe ]

[ Sheet music by this composer: Sheet Music Plus - Musicnotes.com ]

Russian Rarity

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Warner Apex 61990

Sergey Bortkiewicz
(1877-1952)

Violin Sonata in G minor, Op. 26 (1924)
Suite for Violin & Piano, Op. 63 (1946)
2 Pieces "Im 3/4 Takt", Op. 48 #2,5 (1935)
Berceuse, Op. 15 #4 (1914)

Rachmaninoff: Morceaux de Salon, Op. 6

Cristian Persinaru, violin
Nils Franke, piano
Warner Apex 2564-61990-2

Bortkiewicz was a pianist-composer in the tradition of Rachmaninoff, his contemporary. But unlike Rachmaninoff, he always seemed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. As a Russian, he was sent from Austria to Ukraine during WW I and he was in Berlin just in time for Hitler.

Bortkiewicz's Sonata for Violin and Piano is a testament to yearning. The melodies are beautiful, the piano accompaniment is restless and passionate, and it is Russian through and through. Even the final movement (marked Allegro) is folk-like and energetic, yet wistful. If you love Rachmaninoff, you will certainly love this work.

The other pieces on this disc are lighter, salon pieces but are also very beautiful, sentimental remnants of a bygone era. The two short Rachmaninoff pieces are the only pieces he scored origianlly for violin and piano.

[ Available on CD: Amazon - UK - Germany - Canada - France - Japan - ArkivMusic - CD Universe ]

[ Sheet music by this composer: Sheet Music Plus - Musicnotes.com ]

Like Another Mendelssohn

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Dutton 7145

Francis Edward Bache
(1833-1858)

Piano Trio, Op. 25
Romance for Cello & Piano, Op. 21
Duo Brillante for Violin & Piano
Six Songs, Op. 16

Yvonne Howard, mezzo-soprano
The English Piano Trio
Dutton CDXL7145 64:29

Bache's melodies have the subtle beauty of a Schubert or Mendelssohn (or like those of his teacher, William Sterndale Bennett) and his piano parts at times flow into the "string of pearls" style of Bellini-inspired Chopin. This can be heard in the Trio during the accompaniments to re-statements of themes in the strings, especially in the second movement. It can also be heard in the first of the songs, and in the Duo. This is one of the most delightful and memorable features of Bache's compositions.

This is another "what-if" composer. He died at the age of 24.

[ Available on CD: Amazon - UK - Germany - Canada - France - Japan - ArkivMusic - CD Universe ]

[ Sheet music for the Piano Trio: Editions Silvertrust ]

Rare Quartets for Piano & Strings

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MD&G 6431424

Mel Bonis
(1858-1937)

Piano Quartet #1 in B Flat Major, Op. 69
Soir, Matin Op. 76
Piano Quartet #2 in D Major, Op. 124

Mozart Piano Quartet
Dabringhaus & Grimm MDG6431424-2 56:38

Once again, the performers of the Mozart Piano Quartet (Mark Gothoni, violin; Haartmut Rohde, viola; Peter Hörr, cello; Paul Rivinius, piano) have produced an excellent CD of rarely heard music. Mèlanie Bonis Domange wrote strong, passionate chamber works. They are serious French Post-Romantic compositions, but this CD gives only us a small sample of Bonis' output during her long creative life. The First and Second Piano Quartets are separated by twenty years. Both contain rich harmonies, high emotional content, and classic structure. The last movement of Op. 124 is especially restless and dramatic, keeping that drama high till the very last chords. Highly recommended.

Read the Classical Net Review

[ Available on CD: Amazon - UK - Germany - Canada - France - Japan - ArkivMusic - CD Universe ]

[ Sheet music by this composer: Sheet Music Plus - Musicnotes.com ]

Finding A Style

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MD&G 6431355

Richard Strauss
(1864-1949)

Piano Quartet, Op. 13 (1885?)
Festmarsch (1884)
Ständchen (1881)
Liebesliedchen (1893)
Arabischer Tanz (1893)

Mozart Piano Quartet
Dabringhaus & Grimm MDG6431355-2 55:41

My enthusiasm for this composition and performance knows no limit. This early piano quartet was clearly influenced by Strauss' love for Brahms, although there are strong hints of Strauss' own gift for soaring melodies and the discovery of a musical language of his own. The third movement is simply gorgeous, similar in mood to the magnificent Andante of Brahms' Op. 60 piano quartet. The part-writing is masterful.

The performance by the Mozart Piano Quartet is thrilling, and the sound quality is lovely and balanced. They play with beautiful tone, delicacy or controlled wildness as the music dictates. This group has become one of my very favorite ensembles.

Mention must be made also of the ear-opening Arabian Dance. It only takes 1:24 but it gets the blood racing like a good strong cup of coffee.

Read the Classical Net Review

[ Available on CD: Amazon - UK - Germany - Canada - France - Japan - ArkivMusic - CD Universe ]

[ Sheet music for the Pianio Quartet: Sheet Music Plus ]

Rare Bartók

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Naxos 8.550886

Béla Bartók
(1881-1945)

Rhapsody #1
Rhapsody #2
Andante for Violin & Piano
Piano Quintet

György Pauk, violin
Jenö Jandó, piano
Kodály Quartet
Naxos 8.550886 66:37

The rhapsodies for violin and piano, based on folk dances, are familiar from their versions for violin and orchestra. The rarity is the piano quintet, a 42-minute work from early in Bartók's career. His models include Richard Strauss, Brahms and Dvořák but with unmistakable influences of Hungarian dance. Even if you find later Bartók daunting, admirers of those composers will find much to enjoy.

[ Available on CD: Amazon - UK - Germany - Canada - France - Japan - ArkivMusic - CD Universe ]

[ Sheet music by this composer: Sheet Music Plus - Musicnotes.com ]
Trumpet