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Georg Katzer: String Quartets

Release Date: 10/26/2010 
Label:  Neos   Catalog #: 11020   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Georg Katzer
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Sonare Quartet Frankfurt
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 0 Hours 53 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

KATZER String Quartets: Nos. 1, 3, 4 Sonar Str Qrt NEOS 11020 (53:25)

Georg Katzer (b.1935) grew up in the former East Germany. These are in fact his complete quartets, as the second is (according to the notes) a “lost” piece. I’ve encountered his music during a few trips to Berlin, and found him to be a not easily categorizable composer. If anyone still cherishes the stereotype that Soviet-era Eastern European music was mired in Socialist Realism, Katzer’s output easily dispatches that image. His 1965 Read more first quartet is discursive, angular, and (while sounding quite atonal) not serial. The 1987 Third is more fluid and “pure sound”-oriented, using diverse performance techniques to create a spectrum from noise to pitch, a bit reminiscent of the work of Helmut Lachenmann, though not as radical in its stance.

These two are serious and worthy pieces, but I admit they don’t leave me with a strong impression. But the 2004 piece (subtitled “Tempi Fragili”—Fragile Times) is something yet again. From the very outset there are ideas that are strongly evident and memorable: a ghostly chorale that seems a wisp of a Renaissance pavane for viols, a descending minor second like a distant siren in the night. Throughout the work there is an insistent, recurrent poetry that imbues it with real mystery. The major second motive also seems to drive the music, permeating all the parts in an increasingly anxious polyphonic texture. The music remains gnarly and gnomic. One can’t pin down what it means, but that’s the very point, its mystery. One senses that something haunting and poignant is at work throughout.

One could perhaps opine that the greater freedom of post-1989 has something to do with this expressive openness, but I suspect that just as important is the way that the postmodern liberations of the last quarter of the 20th century have made an impact on Katzer, as they have all composers. At the same time, this piece demonstrates that many composers who absorbed the tenets of Modernism also have preserved a certain purity and integrity of vision, one that allows them to combine degrees of poetry and abstraction in a way that’s synthetic and authentic. In short, to make music that’s not facile or pandering. I like this piece very much.

Attention should also be paid to the Sonar Quartet, which plays this music with authority. The sense of ensemble, in precision of both execution and sonic range, is superb. Like the Emersons, the two violins appear to trade parts from piece to piece. The players are Suzanne Zapf and Kirsten Harms, violin; Nicholaus Schierf, viola; and Cosima Gerhardt, cello.

FANFARE: Robert Carl
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Works on This Recording

String Quartet No. 1 by Georg Katzer
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Sonare Quartet Frankfurt
Written: 1998 
Venue:  Deutschlandfunk, Kammermusiksaal 
Length: 7 Minutes 32 Secs. 
String Quartet No. 3 by Georg Katzer
Period: Contemporary 
Written: 1987 
Venue:  Deutschlandfunk, Kammermusiksaal 
Length: 16 Minutes 40 Secs. 
String Quartet No. 4 "Tempi Fragili" by Georg Katzer
Period: Contemporary 
Venue:  Deutschlandfunk, Kammermusiksaal 
Length: 17 Minutes 54 Secs. 

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