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Relentless energy from a fiery quartet

‘Very fast and with fire’: not your average opening to a string quartet. Erwin Schulhoff’s music gives the impression of being subject to intolerable pressure, even under attack. In aesthetic terms it arises from his background as a Czech Bohemian Romantic whose talents were first encouraged by Dvořák and refined by studies with Debussy, before embracing the new waves of Modernism and jazz. Art mirrored life, as it does. Both his music on the edge and his Jewish background led to Nazi blacklisting and prohibition. He died in a Bavarian concentration camp in 1941, 17 years after writing this string quartet.
Following Beethoven at his most confrontational, Schulhoff’s First Quartet contains no true slow movement, and the Henschel Quartet invested it with a relentless energy enriched with long familiarity that also distinguishes their studio recording of the work on Neos. They laid knowingly into the false modulations of the second movement’s waltz-parody – ‘con malincola grotesca’, another terrific and original marking – with portamento spread like whipped cream over a Viennese heart-attack on a plate.
 
‘Very fast and with fire’: not your average opening to a string quartet. Erwin Schulhoff’s music gives the impression of being subject to intolerable pressure, even under attack. In aesthetic terms it arises from his background as a Czech Bohemian Romantic whose talents were first encouraged by Dvořák and refined by studies with Debussy, before embracing the new waves of Modernism and jazz. Art mirrored life, as it does. Both his music on the edge and his Jewish background led to Nazi blacklisting and prohibition. He died in a Bavarian concentration camp in 1941, 17 years after writing this string quartet.
Following Beethoven at his most confrontational, Schulhoff’s First Quartet contains no true slow movement, and the Henschel Quartet invested it with a relentless energy enriched with long familiarity that also distinguishes their studio recording of the work on Neos. They laid knowingly into the false modulations of the second movement’s waltz-parody – ‘con malincola grotesca’, another terrific and original marking – with portamento spread like whipped cream over a Viennese heart-attack on a plate.
http://www.amati.com/magazine/148-cd-concert-reviews/relentless-energy-fiery-quartet/
 
Peter Quantrill at Amati.com, October 13 2015

 

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