> WEILL, HINDEMITH Quartets 30710712 [RB]: Classical Reviews- April2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Kurt WEILL (1900-1950)
String Quartet No. 1 (1919) [25.03]
String Quartet No. 2 Op. 8 (1922-23) [20.14]
Paul HINDEMITH (1895-1963)

Minimax - Repertorium für Militärmusik (1923) [22.22]
Leipziger Streichquartett
Rec 28-30 Mar 2001 at Markkleeburg (Weill); 8/1995 Fürstliche Reitbahn Bad Arolsen.
Co-production with Deutschland Radio


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This music was a closed book until MD&G, Deutschland Radio and the Leipziger Streichquartett opened its pages.

What to expect of Weill and the string quartet? I expected something more caustic and sardonic than the First Quartet. But then I looked again at the date of the work. It is an early effort. Certainly the 1919 work is elegant, with Schubertian lyric orientation, clarity and the trappings of cosmopolitan savoir-faire. This is not the acrid Weill but one who unwittingly shows a greater empathy with the émigré Hollywood songs of Hanns Eisler (as glowingly recorded by Matthias Goerne on Decca) and of Othmar Schoeck. This is Weill finding his feet and writing within a tradition he was later to so infiltrate with 'alien' elements that it emerged just as lyrical but with a militant disillusioned edginess. Certainly his gift for the singable line can be discerned here. You should approach this quartet as if it were a pared down Reger or more accurately as if it were Schoeck or Weigl. The work gives us perhaps some insight into the language employed in his lost tone poem on Rainer Maria Rilke's Die Weise von Liebe und Tod des Cornets Christoph Rilke. While showing my preoccupation with stylistic parallels I must also emphasise what a pleasurable work this is and the Langsam (III) is every bit as good as Reger's andantes. Only in the last movement does convention wear the listener's attention a little thin.

The three movement Op. 8 quartet was written under the tutelage of Busoni and steps well back from the sort of German romanticism to be found in Pfitzner and Schoeck. In its place the Junge Klassizität substitutes a more objective and emotionally restrained style here cut with a modicum of Schoenbergian expressionism - this was after all the 1920s. Flighty, cheery and delicately cool, it is largely unTeutonic although the Choralphantasie 'round' finale (at 10.44 twice as long as the other two movements put together) does tread with a completely Bachian gravity. This retreat into complexity compares unfavourably with the air and light of the first two movements. After the first four or so minutes Weill takes us back to music more consonant with the predecessor movements although he soon returns to the pedestrian patterning of the start of the movement. Interesting, at 4.46, how the little chugging march figure looks to the two symphonies. Lovely playing by the way. As an illustration listen to the whispered chittering at 7.29 in which Weill is unknowingly in touch with the Wicca music in Peter Warlock's The Curlew.

Hindemith's Minimax is a suite of six humorous movements encompassing the absurd pride of the German military march (complete with sliding wrong notes), a take-off of Suppé's Poet and Peasant, an intermezzo in which instrumentalists take the role of two distant trumpets, a concert waltz with an ever so slightly sad introduction, a squeakily high dance with a prominent part for the two violins and a pawky march called Alte Karbonaden (a reference to barbecued spareribs) guying Karl Teike's march Alte Kameraden. This is music of light though perhaps time-worn if not time-expired humour. It is an extremely skilled and entertaining cassation rather than a serenade. Think of a sort of modernised Viennese cross between a chamber version of the Toy Symphony, Eine Kleine Nachtmusik and a Malcolm Arnold divertimento. Charming stuff and full of in-jokes between the composer and his beloved Amar Quartet.

Thorough documentation that complements a pleasurable and surprising listening experience.

Rob Barnett

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