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Charles Martin LOEFFLER (1861 - 1935)
Music for Four Stringed Instruments (1917) [25.33]
String Quartet in a (1889) [25.36]
Quintet in One Movement for 3 Violins, Viola and Cello (1894) [14.47]
DaVinci Quartet: Jerilyn Jorgensen, Wendolyn Olson, vv.; Margaret Miller, va.;
Katharine Knight, vc. Cora Cooper, violin, assisting artist in the quintet.
Notes in English, Deutsch, and Français.
Recorded at Margaret Foote Hall, Denver, Colorado, USA, 16 December 1999
NAXOS 8.559077 [66.46]

Comparison recordings:
Music for 4 Stringed Instruments, Kohon Quartet [ADD] Vox CDX 5057
Deux Rapsodies, Robert Sprenkle, oboe; Francis Tursi, viola; Armand Basile, piano.[ADD] "Music for Quiet Listening Vol.2" Mercury 434390



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Whatever "American" Style is, Charles Martin Loeffler never utilised it, any more than did Stravinsky or Rachmaninov. Born in Alsace and educated in Paris, Loeffler arrived in the USA with his family to take over in 1882 the job of concertmaster of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, a position he held until 1903 when he resigned to devote himself to composing. And compose he did, drawing appropriately from both German and French traditions. By the time of his death his works populated the programs of most major US symphony orchestras, but have all but disappeared today.

Loeffler’s masterpiece is the Deux Rapsodies for piano, viola, and oboe, which deserves a place among the half dozen greatest piano trios ever written; the definitive recording of it is listed above so that any who don’t have it can easily obtain it. Unfortunately none of the works on the disk at hand, or any other work by Loeffler yet made available, approaches the Rhapsodies in level of craftsmanship or inspiration, but one keeps hoping that the continuing exploration of Loeffler’s oeuvre will uncover another brilliant jewel, or perhaps at least a jet brooch or two.

These artists are all experienced performers and teachers of their respective instruments and have previously been active in the area of neglected women composers. Now they have democratically extended their concern and their considerable musical skills to neglected males as well. Throughout they play beautifully, intelligently, and with compassion, and receive clear well balanced recording.

These works have the open lyricism of the Dvořák quartets, but are more rigorously crafted, and with unmistakable echoes of Debussy. The Music for four Stringed Instruments was written as an elegy to the first US aviator to die in what used to be called "The Great War" before a greater war usurped its position. It contains a devilishly difficult cello part, in which the cellist is required to retune her instrument several times while playing. The Kohon Quartet recording has been current for a number of years in an anthology of US quartet music and is also a distinguished recording, but the DaVinci group play with more assurance and lyric grace and a better sense of the structure of the work. They achieve a good balance of hope and sadness in the "Easter" movement. Even if you have the Kohon recording you will want this one for the other music, particularly the Quintet, evidently the only work ever written for this particular combination of instruments. The theme from one of the Rapsodies moves sinuously through the Quintet at one point.

Paul Shoemaker



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