LABELS: Dabringhaus und Grimm
WORKS: String Quartet No. 1; String Quartet No. 2; Movement for String Quartet in B flat
PERFORMER: Minguet Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: MDG 603 0665-2
Othmar Schoeck (1886-1957) enjoyed a comfortable, culturally oriented upbringing in Switzerland, before joining Max Reger’s coterie of disciples in Leipzig in 1907. As his First String Quartet of 1912-13 demonstrates, his early compositions showed little of his mentor’s stoical academicism; even the mechanistic counterpoint suggestive of definitive Regerism appears curiously remote, since Schoeck’s three-movement work is invested with a sunny melodic radiance and mercurial vigour.
Nonetheless, Reger’s influence is there in the intellectually charged formal monumentalism of Schoeck’s epic Second Quartet (1923), a watershed in the evolution of the medium in the 20th century. The monothematicism of the apprentice Quartet Movement (1907-8) is made tolerable by promising melodic invention, but it’s the least impressive work recorded here by the Minguet Quartet.
Lest this repertoire appear not overly inviting on paper, let me affirm that these performances are uncommonly fine, and have the passion, aplomb and plausibility needed to stand this unfamiliar music in good stead. Well worth investigating, and MDG’s engineering is characteristically natural and unmanipulated. Michael Jameson