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Zemlinsky: String Quartets Vol 1 / Escher String Quartet

Zemlinsky / Escher String Quartet
Release Date: 08/27/2013 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 8572813  
Composer:  Alexander von Zemlinsky
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Escher String Quartet
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 5 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Founded in 2005, the New York-based Escher String Quartet makes an auspicious Naxos debut with the first of two volumes devoted to Alexander Zemlinsky’s complete music for string quartet. In contrast to the hyper-Brahmsian flavor of his first two quartets, Zemlinsky’s Third and Fourth are firmly rooted in the sound world of his younger Second Viennese School colleagues Berg and Schoenberg (who actually studied with Zemlinsky), although his ear for tone color and textural variety evokes Bartók’s more familiar aesthetic. The Escher’s interpretations yield little, if anything, to the Schoenberg Quartet’s Chandos edition and the pioneering LaSalle Quartet cycle on DG, and often present markedly different readings.

Read more example, the LaSalle Quartet presents the Third quartet’s Theme and Variations movement with a deliberate delicacy that evokes the spirit of Webern’s stark and sparse style. By contrast, the Escher’s faster tempos and lighter, almost offhanded way with the ponticello effects suggests something altogether more playful and humorous. A similar point can be made regarding the Escher’s quicker, more tonally robust Romanze. Indeed, the faster tempo minimizes the danger in the viola tune’s difficult interval leaps.

The Escher’s more diverse blend in the Fourth quartet’s own Theme and Variations movement differs from and is possibly more interesting in relation to the LaSalle’s relative timbral uniformity, although I prefer the shapely eloquence of LaSalle cellist Lee Fiser’s extended opening solo to Dane Johansen’s impeccable yet more generalized execution here. The disc concludes with two substantial quartet movements that may have been intended to form part of a larger future work that ultimately did not materialize. Fine as the Escher’s performances are, I prefer the Schoenberg Quartet’s less foursquare, more supple and dynamically varied handling of the first piece’s relentless Vivace finale. Naxos’ first-rate sonics and annotations add to this release’s attractions, and I look forward to the Escher’s next Zemlinsky volume, as well as its upcoming Mendelssohn cycle.

-- Jed Distler, ClassicsToday.com
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Works on This Recording

Quartet for Strings no 4, Op. 25 by Alexander von Zemlinsky
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Escher String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1936; Vienna, Austria 
Quartet for Strings no 3, Op. 19 by Alexander von Zemlinsky
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Escher String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: circa 1923; Prague, Czech Republ 
Movements (2) for String Quartet (1927) by Alexander von Zemlinsky
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Escher String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1927; Berlin, Germany 
Movements (2) for String Quartet (1896) by Alexander von Zemlinsky
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Escher String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1894-1896; Vienna, Austria 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  2 Customer Reviews )
 Zemlinsky shown in a new light  October 24, 2013 By F. Bayerl (Ottawa, ON) See All My Reviews "These quartets take more than one listening to be appreciated, but should appeal to those who like his other music. They lack the lushness of the symphonies and tend instead to be lean and rhythmically quirky, but repeated hearing brings out the musical logic at work." Report Abuse
 Atypical Zemlinsky October 10, 2013 By E. Barnes (Herndon, VA) See All My Reviews "I'm a big Zemlinsky fan, but generally I find his program music (including his operas) more satisfying than his efforts in the non-programmatic arena. His string quartets are a wonderful exception, and you'll find yourself fascinated with what the composer has to say. The Escher Quartet is a fine medium to get that message across. Recorded sound is exemplary." Report Abuse
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