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     String Quartets

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 ]

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 ]

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 - ]

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 - ]

A New Nationalism

Naxos 8.554315

Karol Szymanowski

String Quartet #1 in C Major, Op. 37 (1917)
String Quartet #2, Op. 56 (1927)

Igor Stravinsky

Concertino (1920)
Three Pieces (1914)
Double Canon (1959)

Goldner String Quartet
Naxos 8.554315 54:27

The Polish composer Szymanowski's string quartets are difficult to place in context with others, possibly very late Romantic with more than a touch of Ravel and Debussy, and with quite a lot of the powerful atmosphere of his two violin concertos. There is some dissonance but not enough to bother those listeners who avoid it. The smaller Stravinsky pieces are more austere listening, but the main attraction here is the Szymanowski.

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[ Sheet music by Szymanowski: Sheet Music Plus - ]

Austrian in America

CPO 777329-2

Franz Mittler

String Quartet #1 in F Major (1909)
String Quartet #3 in D minor (1915-1918)

Hugo Wolf Quartet
CPO 777329-2 55:38

Franz Mittler, poet, humorist, composer, pianist, concert accompanist was born in Vienna, and came to America in 1939. He studied composition with Joseph Labor, Richard Heuberger and and he performed with the Rosé quartet and as a concert song accompanist.

This recording of string quartets is performed with great spirit and humor by the Hugo Wolf String Quartet (Sebastian Gürtler and Régis Bringolf, violins; Gertrud Weinmeister, viola; Florian Berner, violoncello).

The First Quartet is a poignant, melodic, Late Romantic and mature-sounding work by a sixteen year old boy! There are nods to Schumann and Mendelssohn (especially the Scherzo).

The Third Quartet is a musical wartime walking-tour of the waning Austro-Hungarian Empire written while the composer was a soldier. The four movements depict four of the many different nationalities that formed the Empire: Wolhynien, (now in Ukraine), a Serbian scherzo, a Styrian andante and a dashing Hungarian Rhapsody finale.

This CPO quartet disc sent me scurrying to find more pieces by Franz Mittler. I discovered a privately recorded disc with several wonderful selections performed by the Con Brio Ensemble, among them, the beautiful Piano Trio op. 3. Further examination revealed that the pianist in this recording is Diana Mittler, daughter of the composer. Furthermore, there is a Preiser (PR90567) disc with songs, performed by Wolfgang Holzmair and Russell Ryan, the same performance of the Piano Trio, and three charming piano pieces. The disc has been discontinued, but a bit of sleuthing could turn it up.

The sheet music for Mittler's First String Quartet has just been published by Edition Silvertrust in a beautiful edition, and there are plans to publish the Second Quartet and the Piano Trio later this year.

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Quartets on Maori Folk Songs

Naxos 8.570491

Alfred Hill

String Quartet #1 in B Flat Major "Maori"
String Quartet #2 in G minor "A Maori Legend in Four Scenes"
String Quartet #3 in A minor "The Carnival"

Dominion Quartet
Naxos 8.570491 65:41

In spite of the little note on the back of the disc jewel box, I do not immediately think of either Tchaikovsky or Dvořák when I listen to these charming quartets. I'm put more in the mood of Grieg's Lyric Pieces for piano (but not his string quartet!) or the Americans, Chadwick and Foote. I admit that I don't know enough about Maori folk music to identify themes or characteristics, but I do know that these quartets are lovely and memorable and belong to the tradition of German Romantic compositions.

Of particular note is the very quiet and sweet second movement from the Second String Quartet, "The Dream". It has an otherworldly quality of great beauty and delicacy.

Although Hill was an Australian who also lived in New Zealand for some years, his early musical training was in Leipzig and his violin and viola performance was with the Gewandhaus Orchestra. Hill was a most prolific composer. He is said to have composed over 2000 works, among them, seventeen string quartets. The performers in the Dominion Quartet, a fine group of excellent musicians dedicated to performing the music of New Zealand composers, are Yury Gezentsvay, and David Pucher, violins; Donald Maurice, viola; and David Chikering, cello.

Another volume of Alfred Hill string quartets performed by the Dominion Quartet (#4, 6, and 8) is available on Naxos 8.572097.

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