Olaf Bär / Carmina Quartet / Matthias Enderle / Susanne Frank

Szymanowski: String Quartets Nos. 1 & 2

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AllMusic Review by

Though the three composers heard on this album -- Szymanowski, Webern, and Schoeck -- were contemporaries, their musical voices are all quite distinct. Szymanowski moved away from conventional tonality and formal rules in his two string quartets heard here. Webern, best known for his compositions as part of the Second Viennese School, is heard here in his Langsamer Satz for string quartet, an early work that finds Webern writing uncharacteristically in a lusher, Romantic language. Othmar Schoeck, best known for his lieder and opera, was a student of Reger and did not espouse the modernist movement. Performing works by these composers is the Carmina Quartet. The final work on the program -- Schoeck's Op. 47 Notturno -- is by far the most enjoyable on the disc. Here, the Carmina Quartet achieves a more balanced, warm, inviting sound with generally solid intonation. Adding to the additional depth is baritone Olaf Bär, whose mellow tone and clear diction blend nicely with the strings. The Webern and two Szymanowski quartets were recorded some six years earlier and do not fare as well. Intonation, particularly in the first violin, is tentative at its very best. The biggest issue, however, is one of sound quality. These three works are unacceptably bright and stringent; the violins are brash, tinny, and quickly grating. Listeners may still choose this album for a solid recording of the rarely heard Schoeck, but may do better elsewhere for Szymanowski and Webern.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
String Quartet No. 1 in C major, Op. 37
1 7:34
2 5:38
3 4:33
String Quartet No. 2, Op. 56
4 7:54
5 4:25
6 5:50
7 9:21
Notturno, Op. 47
8 14:25
9 3:02
10 6:14
11 2:21
12 8:17
blue highlight denotes track pick