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Wenzel Heinrich VEIT (1806-1864)
Complete String Quartets - Volume 2
String Quartet No. 3 in E flat Major Op. 7 (1838) [32:13]
String Quartet No. 4 in G minor Op. 16 (1840) [34:31]
Kertész Quartet
rec. 2016, St. Peter’s, Evercreech, UK

I was first introduced to the music of the German-Bohemian composer Wenzel Heinrich Veit, of whom I knew nothing beforehand, only about three months ago, when a friend loaned me volume one of this 2 CD series of his complete string quartets (TOCC0335 - review). That disc has since been on my wish list, so I jumped at the chance to review this one and am glad I did, as, if anything, the music here is even better than on volume one.

In his review of volume one, Jonathan Woolf stated that he “was not expecting to find lost masterpieces in this series, but the disc is valuable for shining light on the role of the string quartet in Bohemia in the years before Smetana and on the influence of Austrian and German contemporaries on native Czech composers.” On the evidence of that volume, no matter how interesting and attractive the music is, I tend to agree with Jonathan, mainly due to the influence of the likes of Beethoven, Schubert and Robert Schumann upon Viet’s music, but here, whilst the influence of the great man is still in evidence, his music is more original with stronger characterisation, especially in the final movements.

The String Quartet No. 3 appeared only a year after the publication of his String Quartet No. 2 and is dedicated to Count Clam-Gallas, whose father was a patron of the arts and supporter of Beethoven. From the opening four-note motif in unison, that is repeated three times, you get the sense that Veit has taken a step forward. Yes, the influences are still there, but he uses them here less as a slavish imitator and more to develop his own style. The slow third movement has an attractive pastoral theme that leads into a dancelike second theme, both united in the final section of the movement. The final Allegro molto begins similarly to the first: all four instruments play in unison then the theme is taken up by the higher strings. This leads into the second theme, another attractive dance episode which contrasts with the main theme, then the coda develops themes from all four movements, in a fitting climax to the work.

The G minor Quartet was completed less than two years after the Third Quartet and was published shortly after its completion. The opening movement resembles the opening of the first and third quartets, in that it begins with all the instruments in unison, although here the first violin’s part is less virtuosic than in the other three quartets. There is a difference between the manuscript and the published scores, in that the flowing Menuetto is placed second in the printed version. This is followed by the beautiful Adagio, with the main opening theme being carried by the viola played over the plucked strings of the cello, followed by another attractive secondary theme. The final movement is noteworthy for its middle slow section marked ‘Air de Bohčme’, here Veit employs a popular tune as a theme and builds a series of variations around it. The movement ends with a recapitulation of the main theme before a single plucked cello string marks the beginning of a headlong rush to the end of the work.

These are both very attractive string quartets, which show a little more maturity of style and originality than the first two quartets on Volume One of this series. They are played wonderfully well by the Kertész Quartet, who follow on from their excellent performances of the first two quartets with another brilliant display. The acoustic and recorded sound is, like the first volume, very good indeed, whilst the booklet notes are excellent; one again, they give a good background to the composer and an exposition of his music.

Stuart Sillitoe


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