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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


Ernest TOCH (1887-1964)
String Quartet in C major Op. 26 (1919) [24.24]
String Quartet Op. 79 (1949) [26.20]
Divertimento for violin and cello Op. 37 No. 1 (1926) [7.01]
Divertimento for violin and viola Op. 37 No. 2 (1926) [8.53]
Dedication (1948) [3.03]
Mendelssohn String Quartet
rec 1990? Laurel Studios, Los Angeles, DAD and ADD
LAUREL RECORD LR-850CD [69.54]
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Laurel's audio trademark is a close-engaged passion in their chamber music recordings. That quality is certainly present in spades in the case of this offering from Toch's voluminous chamber music production.

Toch's experience in the Great War fighting on the Austro-Italian front wrought changes in his language. The 1919 quartet (his ninth - the other eight being reputedly of a Brahmsian inclination) is sharp and to the point. If his pre-1919 music was Brahmsian this is hardly revolutionary stuff. Even so it spills its message with a language that blends the stirrings of expressionism with the overflowing emotionality of Smetana's two quartets and with some of the playfulness of Dvořák and the explosively lyrical shrapnel of Zemlinsky. The music reminded me of the searing and probing quartets of Karl Weigl - a cycle of which was unkindly throttled with the death of the Nimbus label.

Rather like the even more dissonant Rathaus, Toch saw the dreadful writing early and left Germany in the very early 1930s fetching up in the USA and finally settling in California. The two Divertimenti, each for a duo, are full of unstemmable torrents and floods of energy though the pressure lets up in the middle movements - respectively an Intermezzo and an Adagio. Toch wrote music that suggests relentless pursuit by demons or angels - usually demons. No wonder Hollywood sought him out for the night-chase in the Shirley Temple film of Heidi.

The Op. 70 quartet was his Twelfth (there was to be one more). It is in four movements of unremitting intensity. That tension is even felt in the tautness of the Schoenbergian adagio which is strong and is played 'with all guns blazing'. The third movement is marked Pensive Serenade. It curves endlessly in acidic violin-led swallow dives.

Dedication (for quartet) was written in 1948 for the Santa Monica wedding of Toch's only daughter, Franzi, to Irving Weschler. It is elegiac, which is perhaps rather surprising for a wedding piece, and is redolent of the Siegfried Idyll crossed with Pierrot Lunaire. Nothing to startle and an essay that avoids the high pressure lyricism of the other works on this rewarding disc.

Another passionately felt set of recordings from Laurel with the engineering unflinchingly close-up and the music flamingly passionate and often torrential.

Rob Barnett

see also review by Jonathan Woolf

 


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FREE SOUND SAMPLES
(minimum 30 secs)

String Quartet in C Major, op. 26
Mit Kraft und Ungestum

Grazios und duftig (Gemachliches Tempo)
Adagio
Ubermutig

Divertimento fo Violin and Cello op. 37, No 1
Flott
Intermezzo
Frisch
Vivace molto
Adagio
Flott und lustig

String Quartet op. 70
Calmly and evenly flowing
Adagio
Pensive Serenade. Quarter note about 72
Vigorous

Dedication, Dolce, cantabile espressivo



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