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Dutch Legacy / Schoenberg Quartet


Release Date: 10/13/2009 
Label:  Etcetera Records   Catalog #: 1381   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Otto KettingWim LamanBob ZimmermannMatthijs Vermeulen,   ... 
Performer:  Harry SparnaayNobuko ImaiHans WoudenbergJan Erik van Regteren Altena,   ... 
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Schoenberg String QuartetHet Trio
Number of Discs: 4 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews



THE DUTCH LEGACY Schoenberg Qrt; Harry Sparnay (cl, bs cl); 1,3 Nabuko Imai (va); 2 Harrie Starreveld (fl, pic); 3 Rene Eckhardt (pn); 3 Jan Erik van Regteren Altna (va); 4 Michael Müller (vc) 4 ET’CETERA KTC 1381 (4 CDs: 290:54)

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CD 1: KETTING String Quartet (2004). LAMAN Elegy & Totentanz. 1 Bob ZIMMERMAN String Quartet (2007)


CD 2: VERMEULEN String Trio. String Quartet. VAN VLIJMEN Quintetto per archi 2


CD 3: ESCHER String Trio. DE RAAFF Ennnea’s Domein. 3 VAN VLIJMEN Sextet 4


CD 4: PIJPER Complete String Quartets


The Schoenberg Quartet disbanded in 2009, after 33 years with but a single change in personnel. Janneke van der Meer, Wim de Jong, Henk Guittart, and Hans Woudenberg were the founding members; cellist Viola de Hoog replaced Woudenberg in 1990. The quartet’s name signifies its primary interest, the Second Vienna School; it has recorded the complete quartets of Schoenberg, Zemlinsky, Berg, and Webern. Its other major focus has been Dutch music, of which it has recorded 11 works in addition to those in this set. The group commissioned most of these works: Pijper, Vermeulen, and Escher’s Trio predate its existence.


Otto Ketting (b. 1936) has been a leading Dutch composer for half a century; his recent (2004) Quartet finds him in a nostalgic mood, its two movements reflecting Schoenberg and Berg, arrayed in Bartókian colors. It is a stunning work, beautifully realized and recorded with gratifying presence. Wim Laman’s first movement, Elegy in Memoriam Morton Feldman , opens with raucous honks from a bass clarinet, sounding as if the microphone were resting in the instrument’s bell. The movement’s 18 minutes limn Feldman’s serenity and suggest his time scale. The Totentanz that follows is a wild, squally riot—much like Feldman’s personality—for which the clarinetist switches from bass to alto. Laman’s imagination and skill make the piece delectable to a listener only moderately attuned to the avant-garde. Zimmerman’s 2007 Quartet divides its half hour into seven movements bearing no signatures other than I – VII. Despite being a non-tonal work symmetrically constructed from geometric patterns, it has many characteristics of classical chamber music, including an intriguing variety of tempos, gestures, and moods.


Matthias Vermeulen (1888-1967) was a musical outcast, an innovator who never heard his work performed until late in life—a Dutch Charles Ives. His problems were twofold: as a composer, his music bore little relationship to tradition, despite its customary titles: Symphony, Sonata, Quartet, Trio. As a music critic, he made a powerful enemy of Willem Mengelberg, who ruled Holland’s musical life with an iron hand. From his earliest work (1912), Vermeulen used all 12 tones equally, without inhibiting harmonic connections. He was a great admirer of Schoenberg but could not stand being limited by his or anyone else’s systems. The 21-minute, single-movement String Trio (1923) no longer shocks; for those comfortable with Schoenberg or even Berg, it comes across as expressive music of considerable beauty, eminently lyrical although with few specific melodies. The String Quartet, written almost 40 years later, is formally more conventional, being in three fast-slow-fast movements, and more distinctively scored (still using only normal performance techniques), but it remains remarkably consistent with the earlier work. This is the Schoenberg’s second recording of the Quartet; the first was part of Composers Voice 8384, a four-LP set of the complete Vermeulen (a Donemus three-CD set contains only his orchestral music). Jan van Vlijmen’s 1996 Viola Quintet traces the progress of integrating an extra solo instrument into the close-knit string quartet, eventually achieving a unified ensemble. The anguished battles of a long first movement evolve over six short interior movements into a unified finale. The atonal music is crisp and business-like but seldom harsh. As is the case with most of the music on these discs, there is a strong link to Schoenberg’s school, in this case more Webern than Berg.


Rudolf Escher’s 1948 String Trio is a delight. Combining independent lines for each instrument with many short thematic fragments, its opening Transformations comes across as jazzy Berg or Schoenberg. The second and final movement is a Lento that is even more Second Vienna School. Robin de Raaff writes in the notes that he has created a scale of ninths for Ennea’s Domein (Domain), stretching from the piano’s lowest note to the piccolo’s highest one. This is not obvious to the listener. The brightly scored sextet (flute/piccolo, clarinet/bass clarinet, piano, and string quartet) is reminiscent of the accompaniment to Boulez’s Le marteau sans maître , or even that of Pierrot lunaire . The music doesn’t seem to go anywhere, but perhaps its lovely sonorities are enough. Van Vlijmen’s 2000 string sextet is assigned a single, 38-minute track, but there are several complete stopping points within it, and the various “segments” display much variety of character and tempo. Despite what the booklet refers to as his construction “following pre-determined strategies” (did not Bach and Beethoven follow pre-determined strategies?), Van Vlijmen’s serious mien and rich scoring produce a work of expressive strength as well as continual interest. I suspect it will take many hearings to parse this music, which I always consider a good sign.


Willlem Pijper (1894-1947) was the most influential Dutch composer of the 20th century, both for his music and his teaching—his many students would fill Dutch conservatories and concert halls for more than a generation. Like Vermeulen, he was an original rather than a follower, which cost him performances from the conservative Dutch musical establishment—until Pierre Monteux became co-conductor of the Concertgebouw. His first four quartets were written early, from 1914 to 1928. The First, a student work, hews close to his models: Wagner, then Mahler and Debussy. It sounds like a French Dvo?ák but has an ambitious fugue for a slow movement. By 1920, Pijper had become more adventurous, and the Second Quartet adds polytonality and a whiff of Schoenberg. The Third retains those characteristics and yet is soaked in a sweetened Bergian lyricism. Its finale draws in Strauss waltzes and then demolishes them. The Fourth is made of sterner stuff, demanding more of both performers and listeners. It was dedicated to Ravel, of whom only the finale is reminiscent. The Fifth Quartet, from 1946, is an unfinished, two-movement torso: Allegretto; Poco adagio. While clinging to many of the elements in the earlier quartets, it displays a heightened level of sophistication and elegance. While it’s good to have all of Pijper’s quartets available, they are far from his most compelling works, and the recorded sound of these 1994 recordings lacks the immediacy of that on the other three discs.


These recordings come from both live performances and the studio; the Escher Trio was recorded in 1984, the other works from 1994 to 2008. Some were previously issued on the NM Classics, Composers Voice, and (Pijper) Olympia labels. A 36-page, four-language booklet includes a rambling essay which tries to link these works but is both inconclusive and self-contradictory. The notes on individual works—some written by the composers—are excellent. This is a rewarding set of modern Dutch chamber music, as well as a tribute to the Schoenberg Quartet. There is much fine music here, and one piece—Van Vlijmen’s String Sextet—threatens to be a masterpiece. I do not understand it completely yet, but then I don’t understand op. 131 completely either.


FANFARE: James H. North
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Works on This Recording

1. Quartet for Strings by Otto Ketting
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Schoenberg String Quartet
2. Elegy and Totentanz by Wim Laman
Performer:  Harry Sparnaay (Bass Clarinet)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Schoenberg String Quartet
3. Quartet for Strings by Bob Zimmermann
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Schoenberg String Quartet
4. Trio for Strings by Matthijs Vermeulen
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Schoenberg String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1924; Netherlands (Holland 
5. Quartet for Strings by Matthijs Vermeulen
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Schoenberg String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1960-1961; Netherlands (Holland 
6. Quintet for Strings by Jan van Vlijmen
Performer:  Nobuko Imai (Viola)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Schoenberg String Quartet
7. Trio for Strings by Rudolf Escher
Performer:  Hans Woudenberg (Cello)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Schoenberg String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1959; Netherlands (Holland 
8. Ennea's Domein by Robin de Raaff
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Het Trio
9. Sextet for Strings by Jan van Vlijmen
Performer:  Jan Erik van Regteren Altena (Viola), Michael Müller (Cello)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Schoenberg String Quartet
10. Quartet for Strings no 5 by Willem Pijper
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Schoenberg String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1946; Netherlands (Holland 
11. Quartet for Strings no 4 by Willem Pijper
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Schoenberg String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1928; Netherlands (Holland 
12. Quartet for Strings no 3 by Willem Pijper
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Schoenberg String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1923; Netherlands (Holland 
13. Quartet for Strings no 2 by Willem Pijper
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Schoenberg String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1920; Netherlands (Holland 
14. Quartet for Strings no 1 in F minor by Willem Pijper
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Schoenberg String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1914; Netherlands (Holland 

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