Korngold¥Martinu¥Schoenberg

COMPOSERS: Korngold,Martinu,Schoenberg
LABELS: Ultraphon
ALBUM TITLE: Korngold,Martinu,Schoenberg
WORKS: Sextet in D, Op. 10SextetVerklärte Nacht
PERFORMER: Czech Philharmonic Sextet
CATALOGUE NO: UP 0019-2 131
A child prodigy, Korngold won the respect of Mahler, Schnabel and Richard Strauss from an early age, but not all of his early works have been lauded since. Written when he was just 19 years old, his nostalgically romantic Sextet deserves to be heard far more often. It exudes the same degree of self-assertion and confidence as the equally precocious Sinfonietta. To a certain extent its relative neglect can be attributed to its considerable technical challenges, not least the degree to which the players can extract sufficient light and shade from some very densely argued textures. The Czech Philharmonic Sextet deliver an affectionate account but seem to be fighting against an over-reverberant recording which reduces the music’s dynamic range and does little to bring greater transparency to Korngold’s writing. The Raphael Ensemble on Hyperion are preferable, projecting more variety of tone and gesture, especially in the first movement, and benefiting from better sound quality.

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Surprisingly the recording proves less of a disadvantage in the busy motoric passage work of the Martin? – a performance of tremendous rhythmic exhilaration and exuberance, offering a dramatic contrast to the hedonistic intensity of Schoenberg’s masterpiece. For Verklärte Nacht, of course, the competition is formidable. Only recently both the augmented Artemis Quartet (Virgin) and Les Dissonances (Ambroisie) produced outstanding versions, though my favourite is still the Leipzig Quartet’s (MDG). In comparison the Czech players offer greater restraint, but some suspect intonation and a lack of momentum in places makes their performance far less involving. Erik Levi