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|Gustav MAHLER (1860-1911)
Quartet (1876) [11:18]
Alfred SCHNITTKE (1934-1998)
Piano Quartet (1988) [6:22]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Piano Quartet No 1 in G minor, Op 25 (1861) [43:38]
rec. Millard Auditorium, The Hartt School, West Hartford,
Conneticut, USA, 12, 14 March 2007.
ZEPHYR 001-B [62:16]
disc features intelligent and interesting programming from
this American ensemble associated
with Hartford University (CT) Conservatory.
first track comprises a sizeable fragment, which is what remains
in a performable state, of a definitive work from Mahler's
earliest days as a composer. It was perhaps written when he
was only 16 years of age. Although dating from 1876, this work
was not published until almost a century later. The merit of
this incomplete piece is sufficient that one can only feel
disappointed both that Mahler did not complete this particular
quartet, and that he did not continue or resume the writing
of chamber music. Considering that his orchestral works are
particularly known for their large forces, Mahler's distinctive
sound comes across surprisingly well in this more intimate
small additional piece from this work has also been found,
a Scherzo in G minor, and this forms the basis for Schnittke's
Piano Quartet, which follows. Schnittke also orchestrated this
fragment in the second movement of his Concerto Grosso number
4/Symphony number 5 (1988). He places Mahler's melody in opposition
to a motif, used repeatedly in his "Penitential Psalms" -
where it is used to symbolise timelessness. Later in this short
but intense work there is a paraphrase from the energy theme
of Richard Strauss's Eine AlpenSymphonie, which has
been thought to be an elegy for Mahler himself. The work closes
with a simple restatement of the Mahler fragment; leaving it "unfinished" rather
than "reconstructed" or "completed".
disc concludes with the more substantial, indeed meaty, Piano
Quartet number 1 - sharing with Schnittke's Quartet the key
of G minor - by Brahms. It allows the listener to compare the
sound-worlds of the young Mahler and Brahms, who completed
his last piano quartet when Mahler entered the Vienna Conservatory.
However this is a relatively early work from Brahms's considerable
chamber output, one of the first to include the piano. It was
rapidly followed by the more lyrical Piano Quartet number 2.
This quartet is quite substantial, at 43 minutes, and opens
in a serious mood with a muscular, spare and energetic Allegro.
The second movement is more moderately paced, and an intermezzo
rather than the more conventional rapid scherzo. That said,
it does have a quicker central trio section which is recalled
briefly at the end. The ending of the work "in the gypsy
style" is by contrast exuberant and exhilarating.
are a number of other recordings of the Brahms quartet, most
usually and quite naturally programmed with his other works
in the same format. Those who enjoy Brahms's chamber music
would probably want one of these collections. This is an interesting
alternative, drawing together works linked in ways other than
being a chronological survey of particular composers’ outputs.
Those with a serious interest in Mahler are likely to find
this disc of considerable interest.
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