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Classical - Released May 1, 2011 | K&K Verlagsanstalt

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The severe sound environment of the Maulbronn Abbey, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the German state of Baden-Württemberg that dates to the twelfth century, has given rise to a series of recordings covering varying aspects of music from the Western concert tradition. That sound environment is put to intelligent use in this string quartet recital, which pairs well-worn pieces but gives them unusually intense interpretations that are heightened by the hard resonance of the sound. Sample the very beginning of the Schubert String Quartet in D minor, D. 810 ("Death and the Maiden"), to get yourself into the disc; the opening chords might be described as slashing. Move on to the second-movement variation set built on the song that gives the quartet its name; where many quartets let a sort of debilitated gloom hang over much of the movement, everything here is a life-and-death struggle. The stronger of the two performances on the disc is that of Janácek's 1928 String Quartet No. 2, subtitled "Intimate Letters," a hypersubjective work whose emotional content could have been drawn straight from one of Sigmund Freud's contemporaneous psychotherapy sessions. The work is as dissonant as almost any other of its period that does not completely reject tonality, but the dissonance is used in the service of untrammelled expression. The booklet notes are rather sparse, and in the case of a work as explicitly programmatic as this one a bit of explication might have helped -- the letters evoked are those between the composer and his married mistress. Yet the Amati Quartet's performance, ringing around the monastery walls, brings to mind, to use John le Carré's memorable simile, thoughts that are like birds stuck in a greenhouse. It's an extraordinary reading that rises to the moment offered by a specific performance space, and the disc as a whole, while not for those who like the emotional temperature of their classical music kept to medium, is decisively recommended to those wanting to try out the Maulbronn series. © TiVo
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Chamber Music - Released November 2, 2018 | Divox

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Classical - Released January 1, 2000 | Divox

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Classical - Released January 1, 2001 | Tudor

Switzerland's Tudor label has committed to disc a good deal of the chamber music of the prolific composer Franz Krommer (aka, Frantisek Kramár), who was active and esteemed in the Vienna of Beethoven's day but forgotten after subjective individual experience became the name of the game in the music of the nineteenth century. If you're confused by the various Krommer discs on the market and want to try one out, this group of clarinet chamber pieces makes a good one to pick. Krommer fused Haydn's humor (and the folk-ish quality of some of his musical materials) with Mozartian elegance, and he developed the mix in intriguing ways over the course of his career: he both boiled Classical structures down to their essentials and expanded the harmonic innovations of the elderly Haydn into new realms (he never sounds much like Beethoven). This disc offers examples of both trends. The 13 Pieces for two clarinets and viola, Op. 47, composed in 1804, are unique -- short, mostly tripartite structures that reduce Classical relationships among rhythm, thematic material, and form to minimal but distinctive combinations. Sample the Rondo (track 12), an ABCDA shape in which the music retains elements of the opening motive but lets it fade away and then gradually return -- all over the course of a minute and 29 seconds. The Quintet in B flat major for clarinet and strings, Op. 95, is surely a later work (although the date is not precisely known), and the outer movements offer consistently surprising ways of integrating third relationships and other features of Romantic harmony into Classical frameworks. Hear also the spectacular passage about five minutes into the opening movement, where the clarinet swirls around the strings in an intense developmental treatment of a single motive -- it's as formally unusual as anything in Beethoven, minus the emotion. The third work on the disc is another clarinet quintet that's less adventurous but never less than pleasant and well made. Veteran German clarinetist Eduard Brunner and the multinational Amati Quartet offer thorough competence, which is exactly what the music requires, and the result, for everyone from wind players to those seeking relaxing sounds for the commute home, is a delightful program. © TiVo
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Classical - Released October 30, 2010 | K&K Verlagsanstalt

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Classical - Released January 1, 1989 | Divox

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Classical - Released January 1, 1991 | Divox

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Chamber Music - Released May 4, 2018 | K&K Verlagsanstalt

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Classical - Released January 1, 1998 | Divox

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Classical - Released January 1, 1995 | Divox

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Classical - Released January 4, 2011 | Divox

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Classical - Released March 1, 2011 | Divox

The recordings here by Switzerland's Amati Quartet appear to have been compiled from various sources; they date from 1987, 1988, and 1993, and were made in different locations. The two contemporary Swiss compositions are linked in that each was dedicated to the Amati Quartet, and both are of moderate interest for lovers of the modern string quartet. Hermann Haller was a student of Nadia Boulanger before World War II and attended lectures by Hindemith after the war; his String Quartet No. 3 (1992), in a single movement, more resembles the latter's music in its tightly woven, economical but not inexpressive counterpoint. This work features two Amati Quartet members who do not appear in the other selections. The string quartet Klangexpressionen (meaning Color Expressions, and the German title has been hilariously butchered in the database employed by some download services) by Wladimir Vogel, as the title suggests, reflects the influence of Scriabin. The notes appearing on the package of the U.S. release describe the work as scored for two speakers and string quartet (the piece is apparently drawn from music for a radio play inspired by the Mikhail Bulgakov novel The Master and Margarita), but what is played here has no text. It's an elegant homage to an original composer who has had few followers. The two Haydn string quartets of Op. 77 are accurately played, but with a by-the-book quality, and for those interested in these works there are plenty of other places to go. The sonics of the three different recording locations are quite different, but the contemporary pieces differ from the two Haydn string quartets, and from each other, so much that you're not likely to notice the shift. © TiVo
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Classical - Released January 4, 2011 | Divox

Here's a superior Shostakovich chamber music release by Italian pianist Bruno Canino and the multinational Amati Quartett. Part of the attraction is the presence of a genuine masterpiece that is done full justice here, yet has been neglected in the past: the Piano Quintet in G minor, Op. 57, of 1940. The Soviet bureaucracy, which always gave Shostakovich trouble, loved this work, and Prokofiev criticized it, which may have given it a bad reputation. But Canino and the Amati tune into its unique tone of withdrawal from the world. The quintet might be called neo-classical; it begins with a prelude and fugue, and finishes with three more short movements in classical forms. But it's not like any other neo-classical work ever written; in Canino's hands it comes off as an assertion of the value of the concert music tradition in the midst of the horrors to come and the horrors that had already occurred in Russia. The fugue is an extraordinary piece, extended to great length in a kind of defiance against despair. The String Quartet No. 12 is a more common work, often cited as one of Shostakovich's near approaches to the twelve-tone technique. In this context -- buttressed by a remarkable article unearthed by annotator Marco Frei in which the composer opined that dodecaphony was best suited to the expression of depression, complete exhaustion, or the fear of death -- the quartet emerges as another take on the emotion of fear that also underlies the Piano Quintet. The modern interpretation of Shostakovich as a composer who, perhaps more than any other, expresses the predicament of the creative artist trapped within awesome social forces beyond his or her control is given uniquely deep life here; the players are technically comfortable with the music, and they hit an emotional tone and sustain it. Strongly recommended. © TiVo