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Korngold: Piano Quintet & String Sextet / Stumm, LaFollette, Stott, Doric String Quartet

Korngold / Doric String Quartet / Stumm
Release Date: 02/28/2012 
Label:  Chandos   Catalog #: 10707  
Composer:  Erich Wolfgang Korngold
Performer:  Jennifer StummBartholomew LafolletteKathryn Stott
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Doric String Quartet
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

KORNGOLD Piano Quintet. String Sextet Doric Qrt; Kathryn Stott (pn); Jennifer Stumm (va); Bartholomew LaFollette (vc) CHANDOS 10707 (66:58)

What a delightful surprise this disc is! Korngold, best known for his opera Die Tote Stadt and several scores for American movies, here presents himself as a composer of chamber music, and it is without question the most exceptional music I’ve heard from this composer. The first movement of the quintet, with its Read more unusual harmonic changes and postromantic melodic line, reminds me very much of Strauss, while the second movement is wholly unique, floating through harmonies that even Strauss didn’t use (at least not in this rapid succession or with such audacity). I see where the Adagio uses a theme from one of the composer’s Abschiedslieder of 1915–20, “Mond, so gehst du wieder auf,” but I am not familiar with that song, recorded by Anne Sofie von Otter on DG 459631 (along with a performance of this quintet). One critic found the quintet too long-winded, but I disagree. At least in this performance, it is an absolutely delightful musical journey, even the almost eight-minute finale.

On the other hand, I have some issues with the earlier String Sextet of 1914–16. The first movement is fascinating, especially at the beginning when the first violin takes off with the theme, supported by the other strings in a way that almost sounds like a chamber concerto. Again, there are a number of unusual key changes before yet another theme is played by the solo violin. This is followed by a fugue, based on the opening triplet of the movement, before the recap and finale. The Adagio is also quite interesting, with more shifting harmonies and a strongly sensuous mood. (The liner notes suggest that Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht influenced this movement.) Musical themes overlap each other, including one by the viola taken from yet another song by Korngold, “Nachts.” My problem is with the third movement, which is sugary in the style of much of Die Tote Stadt or some of the more self-indulgent themes from Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier. Annotator Troy Dixon feels that it brings “much-needed relief to the highly charged atmosphere that was established by the preceding Adagio, ” but I find it out of place musically, like dropping a Léhar or Leo Fall operetta melody into a serious chamber work. In the finale, however, Korngold returns to his better form, despite the introduction of a very sentimental theme in the middle of the movement. Here, Korngold is both creative and cheerful.

This is at least as fine a performance of the quintet as the one by violist Henri Sigfridsson with the Aron String Quartet on CPO 777436-2. The Doric Quartet plays with exceptional energy as well as the proper musical style, and Chandos’s sonics capture it all splendidly.

FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley
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Works on This Recording

Sextet for Strings in D major, Op. 10 by Erich Wolfgang Korngold
Performer:  Jennifer Stumm (Viola), Bartholomew Lafollette (Cello)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Doric String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1914; Vienna, Austria 
Quintet for Piano and Strings in E major, Op. 15 by Erich Wolfgang Korngold
Performer:  Kathryn Stott (Piano)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Doric String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1922; Vienna, Austria 

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