Vladimír Fortín / Lucie Hájková / Pražák Quartet / Zemlinsky Quartet

Alexander Zemlinsky: Maiblumen blühten überall; Two Pieces for String Quintet; Cello Sonata; Three Pieces for Cello

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Alexander Zemlinsky: Maiblumen blühten überall; Two Pieces for String Quintet; Cello Sonata; Three Pieces for Cello Review

by V. Vasan

If an evening of beautiful music by excellent artists is in demand, this album will bring a chamber concert straight into one's house. Zemlinsky's Mailblumen for soprano and string sextet is a most interesting work. The first couple of minutes of the piece feature the sextet alone, performing a gorgeous, blooming introduction where each and every phrase and note is shaped, with a moving depth from the cello. Just when one thinks this Richard Strauss-like music cannot get any more beautiful, the soprano enters. Lucie Hájková's soprano voice has power, crispness, and impassioned, clear diction. In a perfect arc, the piece ends with the strings. Fans of Strauss or Hugo Wolf would certainly rejoice. The Cello Sonata in A minor shows off not only a wonderful artist, but also a wonderful instrument. The beautifully articulated cello is punctuated by the piano, and the cello simply sings. The two musicians work beautifully together, with similar intensities of dynamics. The second movement is performed with a stately grace and restraint. In the fourth movement, one cannot help but admire Zemlinsky's gift for contrast, as the piano plumbs the lower registers with a high, legato cello singing above. The Two Pieces for string quintet is music in liquid form; it absolutely pours into one's ears. Zemlinsky's texture is dense, and each instrument matters, and yet the Zemlinsky Quartet plays with razor-sharp precision, perfect unison. One wishes the music would never end. Fortunately, there is yet another piece on the album, the Three Pieces for cello and piano. Once more, one is treated to the fabulous pairing of the cello and piano. One can feel the cello's deep woe in the long lines, and also the joy as it skips in a dance with the piano in the final movement. This album is a match made in heaven, with a gifted composer's music brought to life by a gifted group of string players and soprano.

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