Euclid Quartet

Hugo Kauder: String Quartets Nos 1-4

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Even though Moravian composer Hugo Kauder wrote prolifically for many genres, creating more than 200 instrumental pieces and 100 vocal works, and leaving a total of 19 string quartets, this 2007 Centaur CD of the String Quartets Nos. 1-4 is apparently the first attempt to commercially record this neglected body of music. Kauder wrote these four string quartets in the 1920s and they share a number of features in common, most notably their strong contrapuntal activity, their rhythmic vitality, and their lively and natural repartée, emphasized in the convivial playing of the Euclid Quartet and characteristic of a composer who played viola and knew the chamber repertoire well, both as a performer and teacher. Stylistically, Kauder's music is late-Romantic in its sweet moods and open tonality, though there is a tendency to eschew the chromaticism typical of the period for a more modal and diatonic treatment of melody and harmony, suggestive of folk influences. Kauder makes no pretense of profundity in these amiable works and sidesteps any connections to the post-Beethoven string quartet tradition by keeping his forms modest and his expression frank, with no great show of drama or emotional intensity. To the extent that any composer's work can be judged on only four works, Kauder's music appears to be worth exploring further, and any ensembles who are seeking attractive literature should delve further into this overlooked oeuvre. Centaur's recording of the Euclid Quartet is good overall, though it seems a little unfocused and distant.

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