Heinrich von HERZOGENBERG (1843-1900)
String Quartet op. 42, No. 1 in G minor [36:36]
String Quartet op. 42, No. 2 in D minor [35:35]
String Quartet op. 42, No. 3 in G Major [24:15]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
String Quartet op. 51, No. 1 in C Major [32:07]
The Minguet Quartett
rec. SWR Stuttgart, Kammermusikstudio, Germany, 2009-2013
CPO 777 084-2 [72:12 + 56:28]

The reputation of Heinrich von Herzogenberg has undergone a thorough re-evaluation in the last ten years or so. This is mainly due to the work and dedication of the CPO record label; try a search of this site under the composer's name and CPO. I have many discs in their fine series and they should be applauded for their efforts. Carus, Hänssler and Toccata have, in addition, produced very good discs of his music, all of which have furthered his standing as a significant figure in the Austrian romantic movement. Gone are the days when Herzogenberg was thought of solely as the man who advised Vaughan Williams to study with Bruch.

This present disc offers the listener the middle three of Herzogenberg’s five string quartets. The others, have already appeared, the op. 18 being coupled with the String Quintet op. 77 (777 083-2). His final quartet, the op. 63, was coupled with the Piano Quintet op. 17. Both were performed by the same artists who perform here, the Minguet Quartett; an excellent job they do too.

The three quartets op. 42 date from 1884 and are dedicated to Herzogenberg's friend Brahms, a composer that he greatly admired and allowed his own music to be influenced by. Indeed, he is regarded as the first composer to have produced a work based upon one of Brahms’ own compositions, his Variations on a theme by Brahms op.23. It is only fitting therefore, that these three quartets are coupled with the String Quartet op. 51, No. 1 in C Major by his musical hero.

Of the three quartets it is the first that overall presents the most inspired music and it is this that has led me to listen to the first disc more than the second. Its four movement structure is quite traditional and bears stylistic influences flowing from Brahms. It also shows a great deal of originality with its opening Allegro energico and the following Andantino marking out this quartet as a work of stature. There are instances of this in the following two quartets also, with the second having a very fine final Allegro con brio. The second movement Andantino of the third, with the development of its different themes, is very attractive and shows a composer who really understood the string quartet.

The Brahms op. 51 no. 1 makes a good coupling; this despite lacking the inspiration that the composer showed in his op. 67. The Minguet gives a very credible performance and I would like to see CPO giving them the chance to record the rest of the Brahms.

I have been an admirer of the Minguet Quartett for some years now and have quite a few of their discs. I always find their recordings expressive, well measured and with excellent ensemble work. This new one is no different. Here they prove themselves once again to be wonderful advocates of Herzogenberg's music.

The recorded sound is excellent. That said, the Brahms is not quite as clear and bright as the Herzogenberg, but not enough to hamper my enjoyment. The booklet essay by Eckhardt van der Hoogen are exemplary. They are thoughtfully translated and greatly add to our understanding of this fine composer.

Stuart Sillitoe

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