Rasumovsky Quartet

Friedrich Theodor Fröhlich: Complete String Quartets

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Friedrich Theodor Frölich was not German but Swiss, a factor that may have contributed to the almost total neglect of these superb string quartets from the late 1820s and early 1830s. Discouraged by the poor reception of his music, he committed suicide in 1836. Musicologists faulted him for a few parallel fifths and for some passages that were called plagiarism, although they are more likely homages, and except for one, the quartets have never even been edited. Do not let any of this dissuade you: if you're looking for the composer who understood not only Beethoven but Schubert, forget about Ries, Hummel, and the whole crowd, and get hold of these quartets. Any one of the four scherzos, with their extreme thematic economy, would justify the Beethoven comparison on its own, but sample that of String Quartet in F minor, with its fugal trio following on dense, almost abstract main material. These scherzos also bespeak a close study of Haydn, who is quoted (or perhaps copied) at one point. There's much more: the Schubertian mood in the first movement of the String Quartet in E major, the chromaticism that only Schubert and Beethoven were accomplishing in the 1820s, and the delightful "Allegretto" slow movement of the F minor quartet, evoking not Schubert, but Mendelssohn. These pieces are a bit quirky, but they're totally accomplished and in many places original in their handling of harmony. Germany's Rasumowsky Quartet deserves high praise for excavating these pieces, as does the CPO engineering team, working in the studios of Saarland Radio.

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