Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Arnold Schoenberg; Gustav Mahler - Chamber Works (Pražák Quartet)


Composer: Arnold Schoenberg; Gustav Mahler
  1. Mahler - Piano Quartet in A minor
  2. Schoenberg - String Quartet No. 0 in D major: 1. Allegro molto
  3. Schoenberg - String Quartet No. 0 in D major: 2. Intermezzo. Andantino grazioso
  4. Schoenberg - String Quartet No. 0 in D major: 3. Andante con moto
  5. Schoenberg - String Quartet No. 0 in D major: 4. Allegro
  6. Schoenberg - String Trio, Op. 45: Part 1
  7. Schoenberg - String Trio, Op. 45: 1st Episode
  8. Schoenberg - String Trio, Op. 45: Part 2
  9. Schoenberg - String Trio, Op. 45: 2nd Episode
  10. Schoenberg - String Trio, Op. 45: Part 3
  11. Schoenberg - Phantasy for Violin & Piano, Op. 47

Sachiko Kayahara, piano (1, 11)
Vlastimil Holek, violin (11)
Pražák Quartet
Václav Remeš, violin (2-10)
Vlastimil Holek, violin (1-5)
Josef Klusoň, viola (1-10)
Michal Kaňka, cello (1-10)

Date: 1994 (2-10), 2001 (1, 11)
Label: Praga



Works from the beginning and end of Schoenberg’s career with an intriguing coupling of Mahler’s Piano Quartet

The Prazák Quartet’s prowess in the music of, and around, the Second Viennese School has already been demonstrated. This new disc ties up Schoenbergian loose ends as well as including Mahler’s sole surviving contribution to the chamber medium. His Piano Quartet movement (1876) is brooding and dark-hued; the lead-back to the main theme’s reprise is especially effective.

Schoenberg’s String Quartet in D (1897) can be interpreted either as the completion of his apprenticeship or as the harbinger of new developments. The Prazák play safe by keeping the work within the technical and temperamental limits of Brahms and Dvovák. The opening movement lacks its exposition repeat and the third movement loses some of the variations that the Arditti’s rightly include, but this is still a likeable reading – at its best in the pensive melancholy of the Intermezzo and vigour of the Finale.

In its synthesis of form and expression, the String Trio (1946) is Schoenberg’s crowning achievement. The Prazák members maintain a firm grip in the visceral ‘Part One’, and their unanimity of ensemble solves most of the textural pitfalls in which the two episodes abound. A touch more dynamism would not have gone amiss, not least the heightened reprise going into ‘Part Three’, but this remains a lucid way into a troubled masterpiece. Vlastimil Holek equally has the measure of the Phantasy (1949), projecting both its thorny rhetoric and distilled lyricism with a sure awareness of overall cohesion.

The recorded balance is immediate but sympathetic, with that between piano and strings exemplary in both respects. The notes are informative if at times prolix, and slightly awkwardly translated (‘post-Lisztian “magic rondo”’ indeed!). Altogether a worthwhile collection of – and no mean entrée into – the chronological limits of Viennese modernism.

More reviews:
BBC Music Magazine PERFORMANCE: ***** / SOUND: *****


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.


Gustav Mahler (7 July 1860 – 18 May 1911) was an Austrian late-Romantic composer, and one of the leading conductors of his generation. As a composer he acted as a bridge between the 19th century Austro-German tradition and the modernism of the early 20th century. In his lifetime his status as a conductor was established beyond question, but his own music gained wide popularity only after periods of neglect. After 1945, Mahler became one of the most frequently performed and recorded of all composers. Mahler's œuvre is relatively small. Aside from early works, most of his are very large-scale works, designed for large orchestral forces, symphonic choruses and operatic soloists.


Pražák Quartet is a Czech string quartet established in 1972. It is one of the Czech Republic's premiere chamber ensembles. It was founded while its members were still students at Prague Conservatory (1974-1978). The quartet was awarded First Prize at the Evian International Competition in 1978 and the Prague Spring Festival Prize in 1979. The Prazak Quartet has made more than 60 recordings during its long history, including some of the most important works in the string quartet and chamber music literature. They record for Praga Digitals.


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