Gidon Kremer. Edition Lockenhaus
ECM New Series 476 4509 [2190-94] [5 CDs: 56:51 + 60:31 + 53:55 + 59:45 + 53:04]
This five CD box has been released to mark three decades of Austria’s Lockenhaus Festival of which Gidon Kremer was co-founder. The summer festival may not have a didactic edge but its programming tends to be thematic, something that these discs can in part replicate.
The first disc therefore contrasts Strauss’s Metamorphosen with Messiaen’s wartime Petites liturgies de la Présence Divine, the dual import of which is clear; the Second World War’s destruction. The Strauss is performed by Kremerata Baltica and Simon Rattle. It’s similar in direction to his Vienna recording but the orchestra is much lighter in weight and number so the music emerges differently expressed. The unsettled angularities of the writing are explored with passionate conviction, and the playing and conducting are of the highest class. There’s great precision of articulation in the Messiaen, and the purity of the children’s choir is notable and even when they come under some considerable strain their musicality wins the day.
The second disc opens with a not wholly cohesive performance of the Franck Piano Quintet. The Hagen Quartet goes one way, and Alexandre Rabinovitch goes another. Poor old Franck gets lost behind. Caplet’s Conte fantastique is a spooky affair based on Poe. It’s atmospheric, and very listenable to once in a blue moon, but is not much helped by the blunt recorded sound. There are a couple of lovely Poulenc songs to close this disc sung by soprano Christine Whittlesey with pianist Robert Levin. Disc 3 opens with a ferocious, hell for leather Janác(ek First Quartet courtesy of frequent flyers, the Hagen (they’re everywhere in this box). In its way this quivering, intense performance works very well, even if I find some of the sawing away too much, and too incursive. Stravinsky is represented by three dances from L'histoire du soldat where we can first hear Kremer himself. The playing is certainly big boned. Heinz Holliger conducts the German Youth Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra in the Concerto in D. It’s elegantly and propulsively performed. The rest of the disc is given over to small scale Shostakovich. The waltzes are wittily done, whilst the Two Pieces for String Octet is an early work but performed here with passionate strength, and heavily vibrated.
The next disc offers more perspectives on Shostakovich but this time the focus is on the late quartets. No.14 is played by the remarkable team of Kremer, Yuzuko Horigome (violin), Kim Kashkashian (viola), and David Geringas (cello). Their sonority, under the watch of Kremer, inclines more to the acidic and tangy Taneyev Quartet than the upholstered Borodin. But they diverge from the former wholly when it comes to structure. The Adagio is exceptionally slow and their Allegretto sounds rather straitened as well. Nevertheless, whatever one’s cavils with the work’s pacing, they locate the powerful sense of loss in that central movement. A different team takes on No.13 — Kremer, Thomas Zehetmair, Nobuko Imai and Boris Pergamenschikow — equally distinguished. These two all-star line ups reflect the depth of musicianship to be heard at successive festivals. Once again it must be Kremer who sets so sedate a tempo. The desolation is palpable and the tonal and technical excellence undeniable. But I find the work loses more than it gains when stretched this laterally. Let’s just say that back in 1978 the Taneyev took 15 minutes and the Lockenhaus team take 22.
The final disc is, rather surprisingly, in the context, given over wholly to Erwin (Ervin) Schulhoff. A top class team, led by Kremer, takes on the Sextet. The only real mistake is Kremer’s decision (I assume) to take the opening Allegro too slowly. It’s more non troppo than risoluto, as marked. This is a good performance, though not necessarily preferable to the augmented Kocian Quartet on Supraphon. The Duo is played by Philip Hirschhorn and David Geringas. Ignore the booklet timing slip — very un-ECM like — as it takes 17 or so minutes not seven. The pairing is good and the music emerges pungently, but Pavel Hu*la and Václav Bernášek do it better in their Schulhoff disc on, once again, Supraphon. James Tocco proves a really effective guide to the Jazz Etudes, on a par with Tomáš Víšek.
The recorded quality varies throughout the set. The earlier performances were made for Austrian radio, and sound rather brusque; ECM took over those duties later, at which point the sound markedly improves. The booklet note is the usual ECM affair, all very black and white, with a couple of interesting essays.
Jonathan Woolf
A top class team.
Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949)
Metamorphosen for 23 solo Strings, AV 142 (1945) [27:47]
Kremerata Baltica/Simon Rattle
Date of Recording: 2001 
Olivier MESSIAEN (1909-1992)
Petites liturgies (3) de la Présence Divine (1944) [29:03]
Dmytro Marchenko (Percussion), Khatia Buniatishvili (Celesta), Markus Bellheim (Piano), Andrei Pushkarev (Vibraphone)
Kremerata Baltica/Shedryk Children's Choir Conductor/Roman Kofman
Date of Recording: 2008
CD2 César FRANCK (1822-1890)
Quintet for Piano and Strings in F minor, M 7 (1878-1879) [37:57]
Lukas Hagen (Violin), Alexandre Rabinovitch (Piano), Krista Bennion-Feeney (Violin),
Tabea Zimmermann (Viola), Clemens Hagen (Cello)
Date of Recording: 1984 
André CAPLET (1878-1925)
Conte fantastique after Edgar Allan Poe's "Masque of the Red Death" (1919) [16:17] Michael Schnitzler (Violin), Ursula Holliger (Harp), Daniel Phillips (Violin),
Ko Iwasaki (Cello), Gérard Caussé (Viola)
Date of Recording: 1982 
Francis POULENC (1899-1963)
Fiançailles pour rire: no 4, Mon cadavre est doux comme un gant; no 6, Fleurs (1939)
Christine Whittlesey (Soprano), Robert Levin (Piano)
Date of Recording: 1984 
Leos JANÁC(EK (1865-1928)
Quartet for Strings no 1 "Kreutzer Sonata" (1923) [18:57]
Hagen String Quartet —Annette Bik (Violin), Lukas Hagen (Violin), Clemens Hagen (Cello), Veronika Hagen (Viola)
Date of Recording: 1984 
Igor STRAVINSKY (1882-1971)
L'histoire du soldat: Three dances (1918) [6:26]
Aloys Kontarsky (Piano), Eduard Brunner (Clarinet), Gidon Kremer (Violin)
Date of Recording: 1981 Concerto for String Orchestra in D major (1946)
German Youth Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra/Heinz Holliger
Date of Recording: 1984 
Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975)
’The Return of Maxim’; Waltzes (4) for Flute, Clarinet and Piano, Op. 97c: no 3 (1936/37) [3:32]
Irena Grafenauer (Flute), Oleg Maisenberg (Piano), Eduard Brunner (Clarinet)
Date of Recording: 1981 
The Gadfly; Waltzes (4) for Flute, Clarinet and Piano, Op. 97c: no 4, ‘Barrel Organ Waltz’ (1955) [2:32]
Eduard Brunner (Clarinet), Oleg Maisenberg (Piano), Irena Grafenauer (Flute)
Date of Recording: 1981 
Pieces (2) for String Octet, Op. 11 (1924-25) [10:38]
Lukas Hagen (Violin), Thomas Zehetmair (Violin), Annette Bik (Violin), Daniel Phillips (Violin), Veronika Hagen (Viola), Clemens Hagen (Cello), Hatto Beyerle (Viola), Markus Stocker (Cello),
Date of Recording: 1984
Quartet for Strings no 14 in F sharp major, Op. 142 (1973) [29:53]
Yuzuko Horigome (Violin), Gidon Kremer (Violin), Kim Kashkashian (Viola),
David Geringas (Cello)
Date of Recording: 1986 
Quartet for Strings no 13 in B flat minor, Op. 138 (1970) [22:22] Gidon Kremer (Violin), Thomas Zehetmair (Violin), Nobuko Imai (Viola), Boris Pergamenschikow (Cello)
Date of Recording: 1985 
Pieces (2) for String Quartet (1931) [7:02] Gidon Kremer (Violin), Veronika Hagen (Viola), Annette Bik (Violin), Thomas Demenga (Cello)
Date of Recording: 1986 
Ervin SCHULHOFF (1894-1942)
Sextet for 2 Violins, 2 Violas and 2 Cellos (1924) [22:55] Philippe Hirshhorn (Violin), Gidon Kremer (Violin), Nobuko Imai (Viola), David Geringas (Cello), Julius Berger (Cello), Kim Kashkashian (Viola)
Date of Recording: 1986 
Duo for Violin and Cello (1925) [17:23] Philippe Hirshhorn (Violin), David Geringas (Cello)
Date of Recording: 1986 
Jazz Etudes (5) for Piano (1926) [12:30] James Tocco (Piano)
Date of Recording: 1985
Recorded at the Lockenhaus Festival