Erich Wolfgang KORNGOLD (1897-1957)
Piano Quintet Op.15 (1921-22) [32:24]
String Sextet Op.10 (1914-16) [34:21]
Doric String Quartet (Alex Redington (violin); Jonathan Stone (violin); Simon Tandree (viola); John Myerscough (cello)); Kathryn Stott (piano); Jennifer Stumm (viola); Bartholomew LaFollette (cello)
rec. Britten Studio, Snape Maltings, Suffolk, 6-8 July 2011. stereo. DDD
CHANDOS CHAN 10707 [66:58]
The Doric Quartet is making a name for itself in Korngold. I wasn’t quite as taken by their previous disc as were many critics, though there’s no doubt they are a fine group and making a material contribution to the recordings of Korngold’s chamber works.
For this disc they are joined by colleagues to perform two important though in some ways uneasy works, the String Sextet, composed by 1916, and the post-war and more ambiguous Piano Quintet. This last work is the one that causes most interpretative problems. Its language is hesitant, and frequently quizzical. It’s essential that the first movement in particular survives some of the fractured and terse paragraphs to form a cohesive structure; otherwise it can merely sub-divide into a series of gestures that lack a unifying scheme. This the Doric and Kathryn Stott manage though I’d rather the quartet had been recorded a fraction more closely. They do bring out the quixotic nature of the writing though the Aron Quartet on CPO 7774362 do so with a rather more complete sense of narrative conviction. More successful is the rather beautiful central movement, a series of variations, some very expressive, and limpid, others very much more obviously ardent. This spirit of ardency launches the finale, and the ancillary moments of caprice and tensile rhythm bring some of the best, most uncomplicated playing of the session from the Doric and Stott.
The Sextet sees the Doric joined by Jennifer Stumm (viola) and Bartholomew LaFollette (cello) for a richly convincing performance. It’s rather tauter, though not by much, than the heavyweight Concertante recording on Kleos Classics [KL5142]. Though this was cleverly coupled with the Sextet by Frank Bridge which was written almost contemporaneously, it’s unfortunately ruled out by virtue of a torrid recording. I’d put this Doric more on a par with the Raphael Ensemble’s reading on Hyperion (CDA 66425, coupled with Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht). This incidentally was quite a common coupling for the Korngold and it does inhabit something of the same musical milieu. Maybe a compromise version could be the augmented Flesch Quartet on ASV 1062 who are faster than the Raphael and whilst not replicating Concertante’s "in your face" objectivity do tend to stress the perceptive modernity of the work.
Still, I’d be more than happy to recommend the Doric Sextet for its tonal warmth, and its finely structured approach to the Sextet.
Jonathan Woolf
Tonal warmth and a finely structured approach.