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CD Feature/ Kodaly Quartet & Auer Quartet: "Mendelssohn/Bruch: Octets"

img  Tobias

On the face of it, this disc could be summed up in a few simple words: Take two of the leading string ensembles (Kodaly Quartet, Auer Quartet), have them play two widely acclaimed and accknowledged masterpieces (Mendelssohn’s Octet and Bruch’s Octet) and you’ll end up with a disc of overwhelming impact. Yet, the facts of the case are just a little more complicated than that.

For in its heart, this is an album of contradictions and opposites: On the one hand, we have Mendelssohn, the famous former “Wunderkind”, who died at a tragically early age and was known the world over for his diversity. And on the other, there’s Bruch, a man who progressed slowly and with care and only used the final span of his 82-year long life to concentrate solely on composing – at a time, when his style had become regarded as outdated and most of his output suffered from the long shadow of his Violin Concerto. Who’s to call it a surprise then that the works collected on this CD get off to an entirely diferent start and take decidedly individual twists and turns? Mendelssohn opens with a fourteen minute melodic box of secrets - the first movement of his Octet relies on the powerful pull of a majestic and yet romantic theme, equally monumental as the incipient bars of Bach’s Matthäus-Passion, which Mendelssohn helped re-popularise in his days as a conductor. Bruch, meanwhile, begins with a moment of stunning beauty, tentatively feeling his way forward through the maze of this ethereal track. But then the two slowly converge: Bruch allows things to almost come to a halt in the middle movement, which moves from despair to hope and is drenched in the greyish light of the early evening, while his teenage-star compatriot dives similarly deep into a downbeat and bittersweet tale of love and loss. And in the end, both choose to break up the somberness and sorrow in favour of energetic finales, which circle around themselves and change tempo constantly. These works share more than their outward form, though. Their bittersweet nature translates to the same piercing pain and sting of pleasure, a feeling that will gently caress your senses and not leave your side for a while, before dispersing into a gentle air of consolation.

So, on closer inspection, this is an album of opposites, which are carefully reconsiled, a story also of two seemingly different brothers in arts. But let’s not make things too complicated and sum them up in a few simple words: Take two of the leading string ensembles, have them play two widely acclaimed and accknowledged masterpieces and you’ll end up with a disc of overwhelming impact.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Naxos Recordings
Homepage: Kodaly Quartet

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