Schoeck was dubbed the Swiss Schubert and hearing any of his
works one can see why. Song and singable instrumental lines were central
to his being.
The 1923 string quartet (No 2 in five movements!) stood in danger of seeming
old-fashioned at that years Salzburg festival of the International
Society of New Music. Perhaps it was by comparison with some of the music
of that time. However the songful, yearning, romantic lines are presented
in an involving and involved web of sound, dense with activity. Both in the
rich interaction of the four instruments and in the tart, almost impressionist
style of some of the melodies, Schoeck spoke out as a contemporary composer
who could tap into high-romance (try 8:30 track 1). There are dance-like
inspirations which momentarily suggest Viennese waltzes and simpler country
dances amongst the general romantic melos. The ghost-like second movement
has a typically long-limbed melody for the violin playing over an eerie scuttling
accompaniment which moves increasingly into Elgar territory. This is not
the first time I have heard this in Schoecks music. Did either composer
hear the others music?. In any event the movement is not an Elgar clone.
Schoecks writing is much more of this century than the British
composers. The third pizzicato movement sounds like a very slightly
sourer version of the Ravel quartet or the pizzicato movement from Tchaikovsky
4. It could just as easily serve as a gusty signature tune to some TV serial.
Even when the other three members of the quartet are relaxing into another
fine tune the second violin continues a mandolin pizzicato pulse which soon
pulls the other instruments back to end the movement as it began. This is
a tour-de-force. Why dont more quartets take up this movement perhaps
as an encore? The lento fourth movement is a piercingly high lament ending
with utmost tenderness. The presto fifth, last and shortest movement is in
constantly busy activity without resisting Schoecks magnetic attraction
The very brief (3:35) and isolated Movement for String Quartet is pleasant
and has some signs of the mature voice of Schoeck. The 1913 string quartet
still speaks of a confident innocence soon to be punctured by the Great War.
This is in a conventional three movements. There are aspects of Mozart and
Beethoven in this music overlaid with his usual reliable gift for distinctive
melody. The first movement is rather long-winded though undeniably sweet.
The middle movement is slightly bucolic in feel - Schoeck was brought up
in the country. The final movement continues the lyrical strain suggesting
the mature Schoeck in the lie of its melodies and their treatment. This is
a good work but conventional and not the equal of the second quartet.
All thanks then to MDG for this fine disc played with style and secure confidence
by the very young Minguett Quartet. I wonder whose idea it was to tackle
the Schoeck works. Whatever the answer we can be glad that we have these
fine performances to return to again and again. I know that these works have
been played and broadcast (BBC 1986-7) by the Medici and Endellion Quartets
but it is difficult to understand why they are not played more widely. When
were these last performed in the USA?
Useful notes in English, French and German. A recommended disc certain to
be enjoyed by anyone who enjoys Schoeck or those who appreciate the quartets
of Schubert, Mozart, Beethoven or
. Zemlinsky. A late romantic par
excellence Schoeck deserves to be more widely known and I urge you to get