The ARC Ensemble (Artists of the Royal Conservatory, Toronto) presents a handful of world premiere recordings on this 2016 release in Chandos' Music in Exile series, focusing on the neglected music of Polish-American composer Jerzy Fitelberg. Once praised by Aaron Copland and Arthur Rubinstein for his cosmopolitan music, and honored with prestigious awards from the Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge Foundation and the Koussevitsky Foundation, Fitelberg was all but forgotten after his death in 1951, due in part because his musical and cultural milieu had been left behind in Europe.
The staying power of the Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich’s string quartets rivals that of his symphonies. His quartets are deeply personal works – intensely autobiographical, confessional, intimate, intensely emotional – and among the most insightful works in the quartet repertoire.
Grechaninov was born in Moscow a year before Sibelius and also died in New York a year before Sibelius. He was taught by Rimsky-Korsakov. His music did not migrate far from his roots and continued to write in that style well after the 1917 revolution had led to exile first in France and then in the USA. A prolific composer in all the usual genres, his reputation seems to rest mainly on choral music and to be rather tainted by suggestions of lack of originality. Certainly, by comparison with his near contemporary Sibelius, his style did not develop much, meaning it is rather hard to believe the fourth quartet was written as late as 1929. But, listening to this disc, I sometimes found the music hard to place and was not continually reminded of other composers, surely one sign of an original voice. There are four Grechaninov string quartets and this offering completes the Utrecht Quartet’s cycle. The previous disc was well-received by Michael Cookson three years ago (see review). Both works are in four movements with the slow movement placed second. They are fairly conventional but well-crafted and pleasant listening.
These first complete recordings of the string quartets of Schoenberg, Berg, Webern and Zemlinsky have won numerous international awards and been hailed as landmarks in the discography of 20th-century music. Impeccable ensemble, superbly blended timbre and pure intonation ….This set [Schoenberg, Berg, Webern] is indeed a wonderful achievement (MusicWeb International). Febrile intensity and faultless proportioning of each formal structure [Zemlinsky] (Guardian).
From an early age Max Bruch had enjoyed the ideal conditions for becoming a composer: his family had considerable cultural awareness and gave him all the support he needed. He had already composed not only a (lost) symphony but a significant proportion of his chamber music while still a student. The two youthful String Quartets Op.9 in C minor and Op.10 in E major show a Romantic exuberance poured into classic and classical moulds. The members of the ISOS Quartet — Isabelle van Keulen, Katharine Gowers, Vladimir Mendelssohn and Imke Frank — know each other from several important summer festivals as Lockenhaus and Kuhmo. As their CD debut, they recorded both string quartets by Max Bruch exclusively for Koch International Schwann.
Schubert's 'Death and the Maiden' Quartet is now available on Blu-Ray, DVD and HD video to download. The concert includes the early quartets in D Major D74 and B-flat Major D68 as well as the monumental 'Death and the Maiden' D810, and it's the first release of the Cuarteto Casals' five disc set of live performances of the complete quartets of Franz Schubert…
The Aeolian Quartet's epic cycle, originally released in the Seventies, was one of the gramophone's major contributions to Haydn's cause. Listening to the performances anew I find they have lost none of their freshness: they were based on the latest research, and the playing itself is always intelligent and thoughtful, with Emanuel Hurwitz's sweet-toned violin-playing a great asset throughout. (Misha Donat)