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Erich Wolfgang Korngold: String Sextet; Piano Quintet

Korngold / Freden
Release Date: 09/25/2012 
Label:  Tacet   Catalog #: 198   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Erich Wolfgang Korngold
Performer:  Thomas Hell
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Camerata Freden
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 8 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

KORNGOLD String Sextet in D, Op. 10. Piano Quintet in E, Op. 15 camerata freden TACET 198 (68:12)

Korngold’s String Sextet has enjoyed a number of recordings, one by the Dutch Caméléon Ensemble reviewed in 35: 4 by Jonathan Woolf and another, even more recently by the Doric Quartet reviewed in 36:1 by Arthur Lintgen. The Doric release, in particular, received a lot of coverage. In addition to Lintgen, Read more Lynn René Bayley reviewed it in 35:6, and in that same issue it was reviewed by yours truly. Amazingly, for once, three critics and three reviews were all in agreement that the Doric’s Chandos recording was the one to have, though in reviews of the ensemble’s performances in other repertoire, I had very different feelings about the Doric Quartet. That Chandos release, however, also included Korngold’s Piano Quintet, thus making this new Tacet recording an exact duplication in terms of content. The lower-case camerata freden is new to me, though I note two previous releases by the ensemble reviewed in these pages, one a disc of works by Spohr, the other a trio of works by contemporary composers. Not reviewed here is the camerata freden’s Tacet recording of Schubert’s Octet dating back to 2003.

British violinist Adrian Adlam is co-founder and artistic director of Germany’s International Freden Music Festival, and leader of its resident ensemble, which spells its name in lower case to distinguish it from the festival at large. The group’s website photo shows a fairly sizeable complement of players, suggesting that, like other similar organizations, the ensemble shrinks or expands according to the work being performed.

One of the things I really liked about the Doric’s performances of these two works was the way the recording captured the gossamer effects of the high-lying string parts. I also favored Kathryn Stott’s handling of the piano part in the piano quintet over others I’ve heard. This is a really tough choice because Tacet provides an entirely different, yet equally appealing, acoustic setting for the camerata freden than Chandos did for the Doric players. The new recording is softer-edged, but with a warmth to it that’s hard to resist. The sound is more homogenized, with the instruments taking on a larger, chamber-orchestra-sized image, rather than standing out as individual soloists. Whether you prefer the more analytical spotlighting in Chandos’s recording of the Doric or the creamier, more blended sound on Tacet’s recording of the camerata freden will likely depend on how you respond to Korngold’s music.

To no small degree the camerata freden performances remind us of the late 19th- and early 20th-century Viennese hothouse of romantic expressionism cultivated by Mahler, Zemlinsky, Strauss, and Schoenberg that circulated in Korngold’s blood. These readings and recording get us closer, I think, to that longing and nostalgia for a lost gilded age than do the Doric’s reading and recording. But each in its own way is of an exquisite beauty, and these works are well worth immersing yourself in two baths of somewhat different temperatures. If you’ve already acquired the Doric, I’d recommend acquiring the camerata freden as well. If you don’t have the Doric and can only afford one, I can only recommend going with your gut, because I like both of them too much to favor one over the other.

FANFARE: Jerry Dubins
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Works on This Recording

Sextet for Strings in D major, Op. 10 by Erich Wolfgang Korngold
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Camerata Freden
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1914; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 2011 
Length: 34 Minutes 11 Secs. 
Quintet for Piano and Strings in E major, Op. 15 by Erich Wolfgang Korngold
Performer:  Thomas Hell (Piano)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Camerata Freden
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1922; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 2011 
Length: 32 Minutes 36 Secs. 

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