Burgmáller

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COMPOSERS: Burgmáller
LABELS: Dabringhaus und Grimm Gold
WORKS: String Quartets No. 2; String Quartet No. 4
PERFORMER: Mannheim String Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: MDG 336 0993-2

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The premature death of the composer Norbert Burgmüller at the age of 26 effected a devastating loss to the German musical world in the early 19th century. For Robert Schumann, no other early demise, save that of Franz Schubert, could have caused more grief. Fate was indeed cruel, Schumann argued, in ‘preserving mediocrity in droves while taking away the best commanding talents from us’. While the imprimatur of no less a figure than Schumann should have stimulated greater curiosity as to Burgmüller’s achievements, his music has only received serious attention in recent years. Thanks to MDG two discs focusing on his orchestral music, songs and piano works are already available, and this first volume of his four string quartets considerably enhances the overall picture. In particular the first movement of the Fourth Quartet with its obvious indebtedness to Beethoven in the dramatic opening and to Schubert in the instantly memorable second subject, makes a strong impact, and the quirky and ingenious harmonies of the minuet suggest a well-defined musical personality. Admittedly the other two movements, a hymn-like andante and a jaunty rondo, sound more conventional, but there are enough flashes of individuality both here and in the expertly crafted Second Quartet to support Schumann’s initial assessment. Performances from the Mannheim String Quartet are warmly affectionate and persuasive.

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Erik Levi