DESKTOP
TABLET (max. 1024px)
MOBILE (max. 640px)
Return to Top
Ludwig Van
Toronto Montreal

LEBRECHT LISTENS | Rarities From The Fringes Of String Quartet Consciousness

By Norman Lebrecht on March 4, 2022

Image courtesy of Quartet Berlin-Tokyo
Image courtesy of Quartet Berlin-Tokyo

Quartet Berlin-Tokyo: Schulhoff, Popov (QBT Collection)

★★★★☆

🎧 Spotify

Nothing navigates the edge of tension more graphically than a string quartet. Two works by composers lost in the political mists of Eastern Europe deliver a profound resonance amidst the horrors of Russia’s latest outrage in Ukraine.

Erwin Schulhoff was a committed Communist who could not get a hearing in 1920s Germany, and returned to his home town Prague, working as a pianist at state radio and writing pieces that are riven with echoes of jazz, ballroom dancing and melancholy. When the Nazis marched in, he was shunted off to a concentration camp, where he died in 1942 at the age of 48.

His five pieces for string quartet, dated 1923, convey the world-weariness of Ravel’s La Valse, along with a persistent edge of erotic temptation and conversational provocation. They would have been called charming at the time, were it not for the smoky undercurrent of menace.

Gavriil Popov’s first symphony was banned by Stalin after its first performance in 1935, condemned as anti-people art for its unredeemed pessimism. Popov turned to alcohol for comfort, but carried on writing symphonies, hoping to curry favour with such titles as Honour to the Motherland and Honour to our Party. He was awarded the Stalin Prize in 1946, but was promptly banned again.

Desperate for a hearing, he turned his fifth symphony into a 1951 string quartet, economising on scale but not on spartan melancholy. Think Kurt Weill meets Anton von Webern, and you’ll get a sense of his textures. Here and there, with gallows irony, he quotes Beethoven’s Ode to Joy.

These two rarities from the fringes of string quartet consciousness are dusted off and exquisitely played by the Quartet Berlin-Tokyo, a group of two Japanese, a Czech and a Russian. This is a Baedeker tour of Europe’s miseries, full of ideas and a splash or two of hope.

It’s different and, at once, just what you’d expect.

To read more from Norman Lebrecht, subscribe to Slippedisc.com.

#LUDWIGVAN

Get the daily arts news straight to your inbox.

Sign up for the Ludwig van Daily — classical music and opera in five minutes or less HERE.

Share this article
lv_toronto_banner_high_590x300
comments powered by Disqus

Ludwig Van Toronto

SCRUTINY | ‘The Great Shadow’ Entertains With Local Showbiz Saga

By Paula Citron on July 22, 2022

Snappy dialogue and very funny one-liners entertain in a story about a failed fledgling movie studio in Trenton, Ontario.
Read the full story Comments
Share this article
lv_toronto_banner_high_590x300

LEBRECHT LISTENS | Isabella Leonarda: A Fresh Voice From The 17th Century

By Norman Lebrecht on July 15, 2022

Seventeenth century composer Isabella Leonarda demands attention from every serious music lover.
Read the full story Comments
Share this article

REPORT | New Research Details The Link Between Classical Music, Blood Pressure & Mood

By Anya Wassenberg on August 3, 2022

Researchers looked into the assumed connections between listening to classical music, blood pressure, and mood in a new study.
Read the full story Comments
Share this article
lv_toronto_banner_low_590x300
lv_toronto_ssb_atf_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_high_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_mid_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_low_300x300
lv_toronto_tsb_high_300x700
lv_toronto_tsb_low_300x700
lv_toronto_ssb_atf_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_high_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_mid_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_low_300x300
lv_toronto_tsb_high_300x700
lv_toronto_tsb_low_300x700

We have detected that you are using an adblocking plugin in your browser.

The revenue we earn by the advertisements is used to manage this website. Please whitelist our website in your adblocking plugin.