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Bruckner, Schmidt: Quintets / Vienna Philharmonia Quintet

Release Date: 11/08/2004 
Label:  Decca   Catalog #: 4762455   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Anton BrucknerFranz Schmidt
Performer:  Eduard Mrazek
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonia QuintetVienna Philharmonic Quintet
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

These recordings were made in 1974, and three decades later remain among the finest examples of recorded late-Romantic chamber music. Both works deserve far more exposure than they get in our concert halls, and they are given performances of great beauty and richness here.

Bruckner?s Quintet is, as you would expect of the composer, big in its scope?indeed, almost symphonic. At 43 minutes it is actually shorter than, say, Schubert?s great Cello Quintet, but its drama is less intimate than Schubert?s. If you are familiar with Bruckner?s symphonic idiom, this piece won?t fool you, even if you didn?t know Bruckner wrote a major chamber Read more work. Its sequences, its pauses, its overall musical grammar is distinctly Brucknerian?and those who respond to his music should know this lovely work. In listening to this work, one also becomes aware of the Viennese link at the core of Dika Newlin?s book Bruckner, Mahler, Schoenberg . I heard surprising pre-echoes of Transfigured Night throughout this Quintet.

Although the Austro-Germanic symphonic tradition is often spoken of as a line beginning with Haydn and ending with Mahler, that is technically not true. Chronologically, it ended in the 1930s with Franz Schmidt?s fourth and last symphony, although one could definitely argue that Mahler actually stretched the boundaries of the tradition further than Schmidt ever did. Schmidt wrote a number of works for his friend Paul Wittgenstein, the dedicatee of Ravel?s left-hand Concerto, and this Quintet was one of them. Wittgenstein later gave permission for the piano part to be rewritten for both hands, an arrangement executed by Friedrich Wührer, and it is that version that we hear on this recording. This is a beautiful work, utterly Viennese in flavor, with a particularly memorable flowing Adagio that will float around in your head long after it has stopped sounding.

There have been other good recordings of both pieces, but none better?and the coupling is perfect. DG issued a lovely performance of the Bruckner with the Amadeus Quartet and Cecil Aronowitz (available now only as part of a two-CD set with quartets by Smetana, Verdi, Tchaikovsky, and Dvo?ák), and the Schmidt received an all-star performance in its original left-hand version on Sony by Leon Fleisher, Yo-Yo Ma, Michael Tree, Joel Smirnoff, and Joseph Silverstein, coupled with a Suite also written for Wittgenstein by Korngold. But while those performances have their own merits, they do not surpass the tonal warmth and deeply felt emotions of these readings. Decca?s 1974 sound is warm, natural, and perfectly balanced. This is a late-Romantic jewel.

FANFARE: Henry Fogel
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Works on This Recording

1. Quintet for Strings in F major, WAB 112 by Anton Bruckner
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonia Quintet,  Vienna Philharmonic Quintet
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1879; Vienna, Austria 
2. Quintet for Piano left hand and Strings in G major by Franz Schmidt
Performer:  Eduard Mrazek (Piano)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonia Quintet
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1926; Austria 

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