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Catharinus Elling: Quartets

Elling / Mortensen / Engegard Quartet
Release Date: 03/29/2011 
Label:  Simax   Catalog #: 1304   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Catharinus Elling
Performer:  Nils Anders Mortensen
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Engegard String Quartet
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 6 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews



ELLING String Quartets: in D; in f. Piano Quartet Engegård Qrt; Nils Anders Mortensen (pn) SIMAX 1304 (66:03)


These are premiere recordings of three chamber works by the Norwegian composer Catharinus Elling (1858–1942).


A recommendation from Grieg, whom Elling greatly admired, led to Elling’s acceptance as a student of Heinrich Herzogenberg, a close associate of Brahms, in Berlin in 1895. Elling’s style adheres to German Romantic era models, with Brahms the most Read more discernible influence, but temperamentally the music is akin to the more understated side of Dvo?ák. There’s little in these pieces composed between 1897 and 1905 that audiences would have found particularly unusual or challenging in the 1870s or ’80s.


Whatever his influences were, and regardless of where he might be categorized in a continuum from musically conservative to progressive that I find increasingly meaningless, Elling has his own voice. Its tone is thoughtful and good natured and not lacking in humor—try the first movement of the D-Major quartet. He’s better at evoking melancholy than full-blown angst, and possessed enough of a melodic gift to create memorable motives and sweetly lyrical moments like the solos in the slower section of the Piano Quartet’s frenetic third movement. His formal control is impressive and there’s real mastery in his scoring for string quartet. When Elling tries for bigger effects, as in the attempted grandeur of the Piano Quartet’s finale, the result is less convincing than in the smaller-scaled D-Major Quartet. Juliet Jopling, the Engegård Quartet’s violist, writes, “Elling is perhaps most successful in the simplest of these three works, the String Quartet in D Major. … My favorite movement of the whole CD is the very Viennese third movement, Allegretto quasi Allegro, which is simply charming,” and I agree.


The Quartet in A Minor is a more ambitious work than the D Major, with thicker textures and a more restless mood. Its themes suggest more of a folk influence, and the feeling of the music is comparable to Grieg’s 1868 G-Minor Quartet, though more restrained and less orchestrally conceived. Only three of its four movements are recorded here, and the integrity of what Jopling writes about the decision not to record the work’s last movement is disarming indeed: “While working on it, we were unable to find a framework of tempo and texture which hung together. In spite of the abundance of promising material, we found no workable performance solution, and therefore we decided not to record it on this CD.”


The symphonically conceived, four-movement Piano Quartet is the most Brahmsian work of the three, striving, not without effort, for big sonorities and contrasts. It is full of attractive passages, such as the quiet second subject of the first movement and the finale’s bittersweet opening theme in the cello. The piano part, sensitively played by Nils Anders Mortensen, is generally integrated into the ensemble, but also has its share of dominating leadership.


I would be happy to hear the vibrant sounding Engegård Quartet in any repertoire. The quartet’s technically alert and always stylish playing provides this music with the best possible introduction on disc. Simax provides very natural, clear recorded sound and a detailed essay by Audun Jonasson that includes rather old-fashioned, play-by-play analyses of each movement. These pieces hold up on repeated hearings and it would be a pleasure to encounter any of them on a concert program in place of more familiar Romantic fare.


FANFARE: Paul Orgel
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Works on This Recording

1.
String Quartet in D major by Catharinus Elling
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Engegard String Quartet
Period: Modern 
Written: 1897 
Venue:  Sofienberg kirke, Oslo 
Length: 20 Minutes 1 Secs. 
2.
String Quartet in A minor by Catharinus Elling
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Engegard String Quartet
Written: 1903 
Venue:  Sofienberg kirke, Oslo 
Length: 15 Minutes 15 Secs. 
3.
Piano Quartet in G minor by Catharinus Elling
Performer:  Nils Anders Mortensen (Piano)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Engegard String Quartet
Written: 1901 
Venue:  Sofienberg kirke, Oslo 
Length: 29 Minutes 58 Secs. 

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