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Quartets - Released June 26, 2007 | Naxos
Quartets - Released June 3, 2014 | Naxos
Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
New York's Escher String Quartet, which has gained plaudits on both sides of the Atlantic for performances of early 20th century repertoire, has done well to record a cycle of the underexposed string quartets of Alexander Zemlinsky (1871-1942). (Named for the Dutch artist M.C. Escher, the quartet on this recording features new second violinist Wu Jie.) The first volume in the cycle covered the Third and Fourth quartets of the 1920s; the second covers the String Quartet No. 1, Op. 4, of 1896, and the String Quartet No. 2, Op. 15, of 1913. Separated by a temporal gulf in the terms of the turbulent years before World War I, the two works are also entirely different in style. The String Quartet No. 1, if heard without a clue to its composer, would have the listener wondering about lost music by Brahms, especially in the motive-heavy outer movements. The intense second quartet, thought to have been inspired by Zemlinsky's experience of being thrown over for Gustav Mahler by Alma Schindler, is quite an admirable work, both archlike in shape and expanded from material in its opening Sehr mäßig movement. It plainly owes a great deal to Schoenberg, but it never goes over the line into complete atonality, and it has a distinctive knife-edge feeling that Schoenberg avoided. The Escher's performance is superb, both involved and controlled, and it's hard to avoid the conclusion that it has given this unusual work its definitive performance. The sound, recorded at a small-town Methodist church in Florida, avoids the cheap sacralizing tendencies of many of Naxos' church recordings.
Quartets - Released November 18, 2008 | Naxos