Friday, April 28, 2017

Arnold Schoenberg; Johannes Brahms - String Quartets (Kuss Quartet)


Information

Composer: Arnold Schoenberg; Johannes Brahms
  1. Brahms - String Quartet No. 3 in B flat major, Op. 67: I. Vivace
  2. Brahms - String Quartet No. 3 in B flat major, Op. 67: II. Andante
  3. Brahms - String Quartet No. 3 in B flat major, Op. 67: III. Agitato (Allegretto non troppo). Trio
  4. Brahms - String Quartet No. 3 in B flat major, Op. 67: IV. Poco allegretto con variazioni
  5. Schoenberg - String Quartet No. 2 in F sharp minor, Op. 10: I. Mässig
  6. Schoenberg - String Quartet No. 2 in F sharp minor, Op. 10: II. Sehr rasch
  7. Schoenberg - String Quartet No. 2 in F sharp minor, Op. 10: III. Litanei - Langsam
  8. Schoenberg - String Quartet No. 2 in F sharp minor, Op. 10: IV. Entrückung - Sehr langsam
  9. Brahms - Wie Melodien zieht es mir, Op. 105/1 (arr. Igor Loboda)
  10. Brahms - Sommerabend, Op. 85/1 (arr. Igor Loboda)
  11. Brahms - Mondenschein, Op. 85/2 (arr. Igor Loboda)

Kuss Quartet
Jana Kuss, violin
Oliver Wille, violin
William Coleman, viola
Mikayel Hakhnazaryan, cello
&
Mojca Erdmann, soprano (7, 9-11)

Date: 2016
Label: Onyx
http://www.onyxclassics.com/cddetail.php?CatalogueNumber=ONYX4166

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Review

My usual impression of Brahms’s Op 67 Quartet, that it opens mid-flow, is heightened by the Kuss Quartet and their jittery, over-caffeinated performance of the exposition. The repeat is more poised but still sounds like Brahms seen through the light of those who came after him. Each voice is strongly differentiated; more nervy vibrato, especially from the leader, discolours the theme of the Andante, the central section of which is not as ‘sweet and graceful’ as all that.

Even so, this approach works in context. The rustic Scherzo is effectively staged as a male-female dialogue on the verge of neurasthenia, the trio haunted and hesitant, as if taking place in a forest clearing halfway between the poor unfortunate in Erwartung and the drowning corpse of Wozzeck’s Marie.

Thus we are prepared, as if by a chapter in Style and Idea, for Schoenberg’s journey to the precipice of tonality and back again in his Second Quartet. From the composer-approved Kolisch Quartet onwards, ensembles generally played this music with the tonal opulence it deserves. Because the LaSalle Quartet could play Ligeti and Lutosπawski for breakfast did not mean they would eschew the full Romantic apparatus of legato and portamento when Schoenberg himself demands it, which is frequently. Only in the last decade or two have historically informed approaches to Haydn and Mozart begun to problematise Schoenberg, paradoxically making him a new and disturbing figure all over again. The composer would have seen the irony.

In this regard, the sound-body of the Kuss is fuller and healthier than recent accounts of the Schoenberg from the Diotima and Asasello quartets, tonally comparable to the Leipzig Quartet though with a narrower vibrato. They impart to the opening movements a persuasive sense of the composer wrestling with his material, struggling to bend it into Brahmsian shapes until the music pulls him where he dared not go. Soprano Mojca Erdmann is on commanding form and well placed within the body of the quartet as a fifth voice. Her arrival brings a welcome additional urgency; the most heartfelt, full-blooded playing on the disc is reserved for the coda of ‘Litanei’, as the key turns in the door to the finale’s ‘other planet’. I am still waiting for an Emerson/Fleming account after their superb disc of Berg and Wellesz (Decca, 10/15), but the Kuss Quartet’s unique coupling marks them out as an ensemble to pay attention to.

-- Peter QuantrillGramophone

More reviews:
http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2017/Jan/Brahms_Schoenberg_4166.htm
http://www.thestrad.com/review/brahms-string-quartet-no-3-b-flat-major-op-67-three-songs-schoenberg-string-quartet-no-2-f-sharp-minor-op-10/

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Arnold Schoenberg (13 September 1874 – 13 July 1951) was an Austrian composer, leader of the Second Viennese School. Schoenberg was known early in his career for simultaneously extending the traditionally opposed German Romantic styles of Brahms and Wagner. Later, his name would come to personify innovations in atonality that would become the most polemical feature of 20th-century art music. In the 1920s, Schoenberg developed the twelve-tone technique, an influential compositional method of manipulating an ordered series of all twelve notes in the chromatic scale.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arnold_Schoenberg

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Johannes Brahms (7 May 1833 – 3 April 1897) was a German composer and pianist. In his lifetime, Brahms's popularity and influence were considerable. Many of his works have become staples of the modern concert repertoire. Brahms is often considered both a traditionalist and an innovator. His music is firmly rooted in the structures and compositional techniques of the Baroque and Classical masters. Within his meticulous structures is embedded, however, a highly romantic nature.

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The Berlin-based Kuss Quartet came to prominence in 2002 with first prizes from the Deutscher Musikrat and the Borciani String Quartet Competition in Reggio Emilia. Their repertoire ranges from music of the Renaissance to works by Helmut Lachenmann and György Kurtág, with whom the quartet maintains a close relationship. The quartet enjoys further collaborations with artists such as Paul Meyer, Pierre-Laurant Aimard, Mojca Erdmann and slam poet Bas Böttcher.
http://www.kussquartet.com/info

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