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Tip of the Iceberg

Tudor Musique oblige 7083

Franz Vincenz Krommer

String Quartet in D Major, Op. 18 #1
String Quartet in A Major, Op. 18 #2
String Quartet in E Flat Major, Op. 18 #3

Quartetto dì Milano
Tudor Musique oblige 7083 77:26

In his chamber music, Krommer followed the style of Franz Josph Haydn and Wolfgang Mozart, and yet his modes of expression extend from the galant style of the earlier 18th century to Romanticism. These relatively early quartets, published in 1800, show Krommer at the height of his Classicism. In all, Krommer wrote more than 75 string quartets, of which these are numbers 22 through 24.

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[ Sheet music by this composer: Sheet Music Plus ]

Romantic Belgian Chamber Music

Koch-Schwann Musique en Wallonie MEW0423

François-Joseph Fétis

String Quintet #1 in A minor (1859) 1
Grand Sextet (1818) 2,3
Sonata #1 for Piano 4-Hands in A Major 2
Sonata #2 for Piano 4-Hands in D Major 2
Sonata #3 for Piano 4-Hands in G Major 2

1 Michel Collin & André Martin, violins
1 Guy Decleire & Louis Logie, viola
1 Edmond Baert, cello
2 Dominique Cornil & Olivier Gardon, piano 4-hands
3 Veronique Bogaerts & François Chamberlan, violins
3 Paul de Clerck, viola
3 Hans Mannes, cello
Koch-Schwann Musique en Wallonie MEW0423 77:52

Born into a Belgian family of instrument makers and musicians, Fétis became perhaps the most important music historian and musicologist of the 19th century, as well as an influential critic. Though his writings were encyclopedic, his compositional output was relatively sparse.

His chamber music consists of three string quartets, three string quintets, the sextet included here (scored for the unusual combination of piano 4-hands, 2 violins, viola & cello) and a few other pieces, including these 4-hand piano sonatas from 1819. All of the works are finely crafted, and often quite beautiful. The performances are committed and first rate. Hard to find, but worth the trouble.

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[ Sheet music by this composer: Sheet Music Plus - ]

Quartets from St. Petersburg

Profil PH06032

Anton Ferdinand Tietz

String Quartet #4 in C minor, Op. 1 #4 (1781)
String Quartet #5 in D minor, Op. 1 #5 (1781)
String Quartet #7 in G Major (1802)
String Quartet #9 in A minor (1802)

Hoffmeister Quartet
Profil PH06032 60:46

This German composer, born in Nuremberg, spent much of his professional life at the imperial court in St. Petersburg. He was the favorite musician of Catherine The Great, and richly rewarded for his service.

He composed at least 15 string quartets in three sets: six written before 1798 and published in Paris as his Op. 1, a set of three finished about 1802, and a final set of six completed in his final years. This first volume gives a sampling of two each from the first two sets. These are are relatively large-scale, Viennese Classical quartets in the style of the mature string quartets of Wolfgang Mozart and Franz Joseph Haydn.

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[ Volume II available on Profil PH09046 76:02 - Amazon - UK - Germany - Canada - France - Japan ]

Russian String Trios

Hyperion CDA67573

Sergei Ivanovich Taneyev

String Trio in E Flat Major, Op. 31 (1910-11)
String Trio in B Minor (1913)
String Trio in D Major (1879-80)

Leopold String Trio
Hyperion CDA67573 67:29

Taneyev was initially a very conservative composer with little time for the efforts of other composers working in Russia at the time, thus the D Major trio sounds like Haydn. The other two, written in the later part of his career, show clear evidence of his having been more accepting of the work of his contemporaries. The Leopold String Trio is Isabelle Van Keulen (violin), Lawrence Power (viola), and Kate Gould (cello).

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[ Sheet music by this composer: Sheet Music Plus - ]

Entartete Musik

Capriccio 10539

Erwin Schulhoff

String Quartet in G Major, Op. 25 (1918) 1
Sonata for Solo Violin (1927) 2
Duo for Violin and Cello (1925) 3
String Sextet (1924) 4

1,2,4 Conrad Muck, violin
1,3,4 Gerhard Süssmuth, violin
1,4 Friedemann Weigle, viola
1,3,4 Hans-Jaokob Eschenburg, cello
4 Rainer Johannes Kimstedt, viola
4 Michael Sanderling, cello
Petersen Quartet
Capriccio 10539 76:45

The Czech composer Schulhoff's compositions show a variety of styles, sometimes within the one work. His early influences were Dvořák, Brahms and Schumann, evident in the string quartet. Later he turned to the influences of the Second Viennese School, to folk elements and jazz. He tried to emigrate to flee the developing World War II but was arrested, and succumbed to tuberculosis in a German concentration camp. His other music for string quartet has been recorded by the Petersen Quartet on another Capriccio CD.

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[ Sheet music by this composer: Sheet Music Plus - ]

Late Autumn Leaves

Daphne 1035

Lars-Erik Larsson

Late Autumn Leaves, Op. 20 (1940)
String Quartet #1, Op. 31 (1944)
String Quartet #2 "Quartetto alla serenata", Op. 44 (1955)
String Quartet #3, Op. 65 (1975)

The Stenhammar Quartet
Daphne 1035 72:11

As the dates show, the Swedish composer Larsson wrote infrequently for string quartet, but his final quartet – his last significant work – differs little in style from his earlier compositions in that form. Late Autumn Leaves, in six movements, is virtually a serenade. The three quartets are progressively shorter, the last just over ten minutes. The music has some similarities to Nielsen, but there are many traces of Larsson's own sound: somewhat angular writing in the faster movements contrasting with passages of great beauty.

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Mature Chamber Works

Naxos 8.553907

Carl Nielsen

String Quartet #3 in E Flat Major, Op. 14 (1899-1900)
String Quartet #4 "Piacevolezza" in F Major, Op. 44 (c. 1919)

Oslo String Quartet
Naxos 8.553907 57:01

There are four extant string quartets by Nielsen, the other two pre-dating those on this CD and also available on Naxos. Anyone familiar with his orchestral music or his more well-known Wind Quintet will recognize his distinctive way with harmony and rhythm, but for those yet to discover the wonderful music of this Danish composer, this is as good a place as any to start.

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[ Sheet music by this composer: Sheet Music Plus - ]

Bohemian Quartets

Ami Music 8553142

Franz Krommer

String Quartet in F Major, Op. 19 #2 (1801)
String Quartet in D minor, Op. 74 #3 (c1808)
String Quartet in A minor, Op. 103 #3 (c1821)

Marcolini Quartet
Ami Music 8553142

The prolific and successful Czech composer Krommer (František Vincenc Kramár) is best known, if he is remembered at all, for his wind concertos and Harmoniemusik. But he wrote a great deal of chamber music for strings as well, including 26 string quintets and at least 73 published string quartets. Their composition spans nearly his entire mature output, from the three Op. 1 quartets of 1793 to the three quartets Op. 103 written about 1821. The early works owe a debt to Mozart and Haydn, but the later quartets reflect Krommer's embrace of romanticism. The Marcolini Quartet (Jörg Buschhaus & Franke Pöhl, violins; Stefan Schmidt, viola; and Martin Fritz, cello) play on period instruments.

A Second Opinion

The Czech composer Krommer spent some of his career in Hungary but most of it in Vienna, where his reputation in some respects was as high as those of Haydn and Beethoven. His many string quartets, written over a long period, show the influence of both composers, but there are in his writing individual qualities such as an unexpected key change or an unusual theme. The Marcolinis play period instruments and are extremely well recorded.

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[ Sheet music by this composer: Sheet Music Plus - ]

Sparking Scherzo

Naxos 8.570256

Alexander Glazunov

Five Novelettes, Op. 15 (1886)
String Quintet in A Major, Op. 39 (1891-2)

Nathaniel Rosen, cello
Fine Arts Quartet
Naxos 8.570256 63:28

Glazunov has been quite well served on CD with his Violin Concerto and his symphonies being frequently recorded. He also wrote a lot of chamber music, of which the two examples on this disc are relatively rare. The novelette as a musical form was invented by Schumann and it seems the word can mean whatever you want it to mean. In Glazunov's case, the novelette is a miniature with considerable charm and without pretensions to be deep and meaningful. The quintet, his only work in this form, is a more serious affair including one of his trademark sparkling scherzos.

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[ Sheet music for the Quintet: Edition Silvertrust ]

The Brothers Kreisler

OK Mozart 692863136929

Fritz Kreisler

String Quartet in A minor
Transcriptions & Arrangements for Quartet & Piano Trio

OK Mozart Chamber Music Ensemble
OK Mozart ISBN 692863136929

Fritz Kreisler, the legendary Austrian violinist, was also a great arranger. His virtuoso transcriptions, often still played as encores, are well known to lovers of violin music. And Kreisler's original works for violin in the styles of other composers were sophisticated enough to fool experts (he was also a phenomenal imitator). However his chamber music, much of it conceived as vehicles for him to perform with his cellist-brother Hugo, is less often played.

The highlight here is the substantial string quartet (28min) composed in 1919, just prior to the relaunch of Kreisler's solo career in the U.S. following World War I. One might expect this to be a virtuoso showpiece for the first violin, but that is not the case. Kreisler's quartet is a fully integrated and balanced work, with complex interplay between the parts. Though his violin technique was progressive, his compositional language is firmly rooted in the Viennese romantic tradition.

These are live recordings from the OK MOZART Festival in Bartlesville, Oklahoma in 2001 and feature outstanding chamber music performances by talented musicians including Nai-Yuan Hu (violin), Ani Kavafian (violin), Paul Neubauer (viola), Ronald Thomas (cello), Anne-Marie McDermott (piano).

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[ Sheet music by Kreisler: Sheet Music Plus - ]