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Strauss: Piano Quartet, Cello Sonata - Prazak Quartet

Strauss: Piano Quartet, Cello Sonata - Prazak Quartet

Praga Digitals  PRD/DSD 250 275

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Chamber


Richard Strauss: Piano Quartet in C minor Op. 13, Cello Sonata in F major Op. 6, Capriccio (introduction for String Sextet in F)

Borges Coehlo (piano)
Michal Kanka (cello)
Prazak Quartet (members)
Zemlinsky Quartet (members)


Scores from the dawn and inestimable maturity of a master of the orchestra and German opera, from Salome to Rosenkavalier. In his youth (1881-86), he left chamber music worthy of a young prodigy and, in 1940, bequeathed a final page of magic and deadly charm : the Sextet-overture to Capriccio. Their juxtaposition illustrates the art of a post-romantic composer initially listening to Beethoven, Schumann, Brahms before becoming the untiring bard of femininity, aggressive with Salome, then of infinite subtlety in the ‘conversations in music’ of his last operas.

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Review by Mark Novak - October 18, 2011

Richard Strauss composed the piano quartet in c minor as a young 20 year old who was learning the compositional ropes from his late romantic German predecessors. As Op.13, he already had two symphonies, a violin concerto, a string quartet and other works under his belt. The immediate comparison is to Brahms’ piano quartets and in that contest Strauss comes up just a bit short. The 38 minute work is cast in four, well-rounded movements that provide plenty of contrast and interest to sustain its duration. However, the themes are not as memorable nor is the harmonic writing as convincing as that of Brahms (or even Raff for that matter). Still, it is worth having this on disc in such a good performance as that delivered by the Prazak Quartet with pianist Borges Coelho. They all play with excellent ensemble and dynamics. The problem with this performance lies in the recorded sound. It has plenty of detail and has a good balance of hall and direct sound but the fatal flaw is it lacks a low end foundation. The bottom two octaves are weak which robs the recording of life. A shame.

The cello sonata, an even earlier work than the piano quartet by two years, is in three movements and clocks in at 25:34 in this performance. It too is late romantic in nature with sufficient “sturm und drang“ to maintain interest for the listener though its material quickly escapes the memory. Cellist Kanka (from the Prazak quartet) and pianist Borges Coelho play it very well. The recording, made in Feb, 2011 about a month after the piano quartet, is well balanced and possesses a bit more low end foundation resulting in a somewhat more realistic sound (in stereo). A very worthy companion to the piano quartet and in better sound.

The Capriccio in F for string sextet came near the end of Strauss’s life and is a late romantic effusion that is more chromatic than the early chamber works above. This 11-minute single movement piece is performed by the Prazak quartet with the help of the violist and cellist of the Zemlinsky quartet. Recorded several days after the piano quartet, this too suffers from a significant lack of low end foundation that makes the cellos sound anemic and robs the sound of realism. The performance itself seems fine.

In summary – very good performances that in two of three cases are ruined by poor sonics. A pity. I expected much better from Praga.

Copyright © 2011 Mark Novak and HRAudio.net

Performance:

Sonics (Stereo):

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