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Mendelssohn, Enescu: Octets For Strings / Tetzlaff, Faust, Weithaas, Batiashvili

Release Date: 09/08/2009 
Label:  Cavi Music   Catalog #: 8553163   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Felix MendelssohnGeorge Enescu
Performer:  Ori KamRachel RobertsChristian TetzlaffTanja Tetzlaff,   ... 
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

MENDELSSOHN Octet. 1 ENESCU Octet 2 Christian Tetzlaff (vn); Isabelle Faust (vn); Lisa Batiashvili (vn); 1 Antje Weithaas (vn); Katherine Gowers (vn); 2 Rachel Roberts (va); Ori Kam (va); 1 Antoine Tamestit (va); 2 Tanja Tetzlaff (vc); Read more class="SUPER12">1 Quirine Viersen (vc); Gustav Rivinius (vc) 2 AVI 8553163 (71:29) Live: Heimbach June 11, 12, 2008

The annual chamber-music festival in Heimbach, Germany, is held at the hydroelectric power station for which Heimbach has been chiefly known. The jewel-case booklet discusses the very curious parallel made between the “tensions” in electric current and the tensions provided by musical contrasts. I’m not sure that I see enough of a parallel to match artistic director Lars Vogt’s enthusiastic discussion of it. For the results, however, if this disc is any measure, we are very fortunate.

The remarkable Octet of the 16-year-old Mendelssohn (1825) and the interesting Octet of the 19-year-old George Enescu (1900) are coupled on a disc that offers playing of the highest caliber. I presume that the organizational leadership that assembled this high-caliber “pick-up” group was that of violinist Christian Tetzlaff, one of the truly great solo and chamber musicians of our time.

The Mendelssohn Octet is played with unmatched clarity and exuberance, and with the expected spontaneity characteristic of a live performance. Tetzlaff and his associates bring us a lilting lightness in the Scherzo and a final-movement Presto that opens with delightfully growling cellos. This is a more satisfying performance than that of the Leipzig String Quartet (plus four) reviewed by me in 32:6 that included the Leipzig’s complete Mendelssohn string quartets. The Leipzig’s set of discs is still one to own, however. I would also not want to be without the Guarneri/Orion String Quartet version. The Emerson String Quartet players, in their traversal of the Mendelssohn quartets, include an Octet performance that is electronically over-recorded instead of engaging a second string quartet, which is a clever device but could not have been Mendelssohn’s intention. Perhaps some contemporary composer-wag will write an actual “Octet for String Quartet.” Darius Milhaud came close by writing two individual quartets that can also be played together as an octet. (I’m not suggesting waggishness here.)

George Enescu was one of the great violinists of the early-to-middle 20th century. As is true of many a prominent performer, he was also a composer. And as is also true of many such performer-composers, he was not a particularly noteworthy composer. Noteworthy (or “noteable”) or not (pardon the punning), this youthful Octet is certainly an interesting piece of distinctly early-20th century music, strongly influenced by French Impressionism and by Romanian folk music. The movement titles are in French. Thematic material developed in the first movement suffuses the succeeding three movements. The very beautiful Lentement (“slowly”) third movement begins con sordini and later opens up as the strings are no longer muted. The final fast movement enters subito , with its concluding bars, a D?-C in this C-Major work, reminiscent of the ending of the Schubert String Quintet with its D? appoggiatura before the final C.

This is certainly a CD to have in one’s collection, and to listen to more often than from time to time.

FANFARE: Burton Rothleder
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Works on This Recording

Octet for Strings in E flat major, Op. 20 by Felix Mendelssohn
Performer:  Ori Kam (Viola), Rachel Roberts (Viola), Christian Tetzlaff (Violin),
Tanja Tetzlaff (Cello), Antje Weithaas (Violin), Lisa Batiashvili (Violin),
Isabelle Faust (Violin), Quirine Viersen (Cello)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1825; Germany 
Length: 13 Minutes 47 Secs. 
Octet for Strings in C major, Op. 7 by George Enescu
Performer:  Katharine Gowers (Violin), Antoine Tamestit (Viola), Gustav Rivinius (Cello),
Antje Weithaas (Violin), Quirine Viersen (Cello), Christian Tetzlaff (Violin),
Rachel Roberts (Viola), Isabelle Faust (Violin)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1900; Paris, France 
Length: 12 Minutes 39 Secs. 

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