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Theme Russe / Kuss Quartet

Kuss Quartet
Release Date: 04/10/2012 
Label:  Onyx   Catalog #: 4090   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  VariousPeter Ilyich TchaikovskyIgor StravinskyAlfred Schnittke
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Kuss String Quartet
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews



TCHAIKOVSKY String Quartet No. 1. Album for the Young : excerpts. STRAVINSKY Concertino. SCHNITTKE Canon in memoriam Igor Stravinsky & Kuss Qrt ONYX 4090 (68:21)


& Variations on a Russian Folk Song (by Read more various composers)


The Kuss Quartet, a German group known for its innovative programming and its commitment to new music, gives Tchaikovsky’s popular First Quartet an affectionate reading here. The opening movement is taken at a relaxed tempo, the only glitch being an exaggerated gearshift at the poco più mosso closing section, both in the exposition and in the recapitulation. This is mirrored by a tempo in the Trio that is considerably faster than that of the Scherzo proper. The famous Andante cantabile features some lovely pianissimo playing, and the Finale is nicely spirited. Execution is on the highest level throughout.


The other Tchaikovsky work here is actually an arrangement by Rostislav Dubinsky, founding first violinist of the Borodin Quartet, of 10 excerpts from the op. 39 Album for the Young for piano. No mere transcription, this arrangement makes these brief, simple works into something quite different, by changing Tchaikovsky’s bass lines, adding voices, and repeating sections and phrases; one, “La Sorcière,” is played sul ponticello throughout. I confess my preference for the originals, although these performances of Dubinsky’s arrangements are without fault.


The two 20th-century pieces on the program are, of course, quite different: Stravinsky’s 1920 Concertino, and Alfred Schnittke’s Canon , for which the dates given are 1971–76. The players really dig into the Stravinsky in this committed performance; presumably the Schnittke is faithfully rendered as well, although not being an authority on recent music, I probably wouldn’t know if it weren’t.


Perhaps the most interesting item on the CD, however, is the opening Variations on a Russian Folk Song , written in 1898 by no fewer than 10 different composers, among them Scriabin, Glazunov, and Liadov, as well as lesser-known figures such as Nikolai Artsibushev and Jazeps Vitols. The theme was selected by Rimsky-Korsakov, who provides a variation of his own; he also used this song prominently in his Fantasy on Russian Themes , op. 33, for violin and orchestra. The theme itself is lovely, and some of the variations are quite interesting; my favorite is that of Liadov, who contributes a strikingly attractive variation in the form of a canon.


This CD is a bit of a grab bag. It’s certainly well played; I’m just not sure to whom to recommend it. Buy it if the program strikes your fancy.


FANFARE: Richard A. Kaplan
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Works on This Recording

1. Variations on a Russian folk song for String Quartet by Various
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Kuss String Quartet
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1898; Russia 
Notes: This is a collaborative work, with contributions from ten different composers.

Theme. Adagio
Var. 1. Allegretto (Nikolai Artsybuschev)
Var. 2. Allegretto (Alexander Scriabin)
Var. 3. Andantino (Alexander Glazunov)
Var. 4. Allegro (Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov)
Var. 5. Canon. Adagio (Anatoly Lyadov)
Var. 6. Allegretto (Jazeps Vitols)
Var. 7. Allegro (Felix Blumenfeld)
Var. 8. Andante cantabile (Victor Ewald)
Var. 9. Fugato: Allegro (Alexander Winkler)
Var. 10. Finale. Allegro (Nikolai Sokolov)  

2. Album pour enfants, Op. 39: no 11, Chanson russe by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Kuss String Quartet
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1878; Russia 
3. Concertino for String Quartet by Igor Stravinsky
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Kuss String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1920; France 
4. Canon in memoriam Igor Stravinsky by Alfred Schnittke
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Kuss String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1971; USSR 
5. Album pour enfants, Op. 39: no 7, Enterrement de la poupée by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Kuss String Quartet
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1878; Russia 
6. Album pour enfants, Op. 39: no 6, La poupée malade by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Kuss String Quartet
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1878; Russia 
7. Album pour enfants, Op. 39: no 4, Maman by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Kuss String Quartet
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1878; Russia 
8. Album pour enfants, Op. 39: no 21, Douce rêverie by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Kuss String Quartet
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1878; Russia 
9. Album pour enfants, Op. 39: no 20, La sorciere by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Kuss String Quartet
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1878; Russia 
10. Album pour enfants, Op. 39: no 16, Mélodie antique française by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Kuss String Quartet
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1878; Russia 
11. Album pour enfants, Op. 39: no 13, Kamarinskaya by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Kuss String Quartet
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1878; Russia 
12. Album pour enfants, Op. 39: no 5, Marches des soldats de bois by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Kuss String Quartet
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1878; Russia 
13. Quartet for Strings no 1 in D major, Op. 11 by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Kuss String Quartet
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1871; Russia 

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