Notes and Editorial Reviews
Contrary to Harold C. Schonberg's patronizing remarks about Felix Weingartner's creative output, recent releases from CPO prove that the noted conductor was a much better composer than he's given credit for. There's plenty in his First and Third string quartets to hold your attention. The former's Adagio assai alternates a plaintive, lyrical theme with animated, conversational material that prides itself on unexpected key changes. Also striking are the Scherzo's declamatory unison passages and a tender Trio theme cradled by an eerie, high-register accompaniment. The first movement's jaunty yet intense main theme returns in a more compressed manifestation at the fourth movement's outset, followed by a substantial Theme and Variations.
If you weld ample late-Romantic string textures onto Schubert's strange harmonic juxtapositions and vehement outbursts, you'll get the gist of Weingartner's Third quartet in its first two movements. The slow-movement introduction's Wagnerian sensibility quickly fades as the players excitingly accelerate into an Allegro giocoso that answers the musical question, "What would Reger sound like if he had Dvorák's knack for catchy tunes?"
The Sarastro Quartett's polished and passionate performances make the most of the composer's wide range of moods without overdoing it. While the bright sonics take on a metallic, slightly monochrome edge in very loud moments, they still convey vivid impact. The German annotations read better in the original than in the rather awkward English translation. This disc is self-recommending to collectors who wish to explore the string quartet genre's obscure points of interest. I hope to write the same when Volume 2 arrives.
--Jed Distler, ClassicsToday.com
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