Zemlinsky - Complete String Quartets | Chandos CHAN10845

Zemlinsky - Complete String Quartets


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Label: Chandos

Cat No: CHAN10845

Format: CD

Number of Discs: 2

Genre: Chamber

Release Date: 2nd February 2015



In this recording of the complete String Quartets by Zemlinsky, which includes a premiere recording, the Brodsky Quartet gives fresh life to the composer’s works, ‘with a spirit so transformational you felt they were actually improving the world’, as reported by The Strad after a recent concert performance.

The four string quartets which Zemlinsky published represent a journey through his musical thought. It starts with the Brahmsian, youthful Quartet in A major, Op.4 which is generously proportioned and less earnest in mood than some earlier works.

Then the Second Quartet, Op.15 echoes the composer’s years of emotional crisis. The booklet essay explains the symbolism which Zemlinsky deployed in the score, evoking the compromising relationship between his sister Mathilde and his friend Schoenberg, as well as his own disillusioned love affair with Alma Schindler.

Contrastingly, the Third Quartet, Op.19 appears to be a sarcastic protest against modernism, in which Zemlinsky exploits a minimum of material to maximum effect, the entire fabric evolving from the intervals and rhythms of the opening theme.

Having been blacklisted by the Nazi campaign against ‘degenerate’ art, the Fourth Quartet, Op.25 achieved its first public performance in 1967, thirty years after its composition. It deploys a wealth of thematic ideas in a process of continual variation and metamorphosis that follows the outlines of sonata form.

The String Quartet in E minor failed to pass its trial at the Viennese Tonkünstlerverein when it was first presented in 1893. It was not published until 1997 and appears here on disc for the first time. The opening movement spins a sophisticated net of motivic relationships, harmonic ambiguities and metrical irregularities. From the simplicity and melodic charm of the Andante and scherzo to the energetic and inventive finale, the quartet is a remarkable legacy of Zemlinsky’s early command of string texture.

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