Kuhlau: Piano Quartet in C minor; Piano Quartet in A; Piano Quartet in G minor; Violin Sonata in F minor

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COMPOSERS: Kuhlau
LABELS: Dacapo
WORKS: Piano Quartet in C minor; Piano Quartet in A; Piano Quartet in G minor; Violin Sonata in F minor
PERFORMER: Elisabeth Westenholz (piano), Tutter Givskov (violin), Lars Grunth (viola), Asger Lund Christiansen (cello)
CATALOGUE NO: 8.224044/5
Of German descent, Friedrich Kuhlau (1786-1832) became a seminal force in early Danish Romanticism. Appointed court chamber musician in Copenhagen in 1814, Kuhlau worked entirely without payment until 1818. Thereafter, his miserly stipend was bolstered by income from a prolific number of compositions, though he died in abject poverty. His three piano quartets (and one surviving string quartet) represent the zenith of his attainment in formal genres.

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These performances are generally accomplished, and recordings are serviceable, though dry-sounding. The beginning of Kuhlau’s C minor Piano Quartet scarcely conceals its debt to Beethoven (specifically, the Third Piano Concerto), but the material is characterful, and not even the sprawling 16-minute opening Allegro outstays its welcome. Its G minor companion is often reminiscent of Mozart’s Piano Quartet in this key, K478, while Kuhlau’s A major Quartet is considered to be his finest chamber work. Its themes are boldly sculpted (the Adagio is hauntingly eloquent), and the double-fugue finale is ingeniously crafted. This Danish team plays with aplomb and sensitivity throughout, but Givskov’s account of the F minor Violin Sonata is patchy, with several worrying blemishes during the spirited closing rondo. A useful release, nonetheless. Michael Jameson