Kontraste Köln

Franz Krommer; Piano Quartet; Divertimento

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Despite an extremely robust compositional output, Franz Krommer is a composer with which few are well acquainted. During his lifetime, he was considered to be on a par with Beethoven, although Beethoven's name almost completely eclipsed Krommer's within a decade of their deaths. While Beethoven was forever the rogue innovator, Krommer's works tend to be much more securely rooted in the Classical tradition. The two works heard on this album -- his Divertimento in F major and Piano Quartet in E flat major -- are pleasing examples of this mature, high-Classical style. Unfortunately for listeners, this particular album is unlikely to succeed in turning them on to the wealth of Krommer's oeuvre. Right off the bat, listeners will notice that the liner notes are rather poorly translated. The performance of the ensemble Kontraste Köln comes across as largely amateurish. The sound quality of the group's period instruments is extremely thin and sounds quite distant and unfocused. Intonation is a pervasive problem between the string players. Krommer's music is filled with frequent thirty-second-note filigree in the inner voices, but the members of Kontraste Köln struggle to keep these rapid figurations clean, tight, and effortless. The recorded sound quality of the fortepiano is slightly superior to the strings alone, but the other problems remain, resulting in an overall sub-par performance.

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