Saturday, June 8, 2013

Anton Reicha Complete String Quartet - Kreutzer String Quartet

Anton Reicha (1770-1836)
Performer: Kreutzer String Quartet , UK
Label: Toccata
Released: 3 June 2013


Anton Reicha (or Rejcha) is one of Classical era composer that I hope the most to get their string quartets being recorded. The waiting game is over now. Toccata put this project into pretty serious one, they just released a plan to recorded all Reicha's surviving string quartets. Born in Prague, a Bohemian and then naturalized to French, Anton Reicha made a close encounter with Beethoven. In his Vienna years, from year 1801 was his peak on compositions.

Reicha believed to wrote at least 37 string quartets. They were rarely can be listen and none to be found on internet and even no amateur performance in Youtube. Basically up to year 2013 the world had little possibility to heard these works. We only presented Reicha's series of Wind chamber pieces. This repertoire was praised by critics for its quality.

Most of Reicha's string quartets praised as influential in his years. Now that Kreutzer String Quartet under Toccata label going to premiere his pieces, we will have the opportunity to judge how historical these quartet to the repertoire we known today.

Short review on this Volume,  this review is merely what a common listener's thought.

String Quartet in C major Op.48 No.1 (c 1802)
I. Allegro non troppo  - it started calmly and the whole movement set in light mood, the tempo is either too fast (hence, allegro) neither too slow. The main theme is easily grasps and repeated from time to time. Quite minimalis, at 6:37 a straightforward melody is being heard without much accompaniment, making this quite unusual for his period I guess. This movement is something like in between Mozart and Beethoven's Op.18. This is also the longest movement on the CD.

II Adagio - this Adagio indeed give a strong connection to their first movement, about 3 minutes used to developed the slow theme, but suddenly, at 2:50, the movement switched to a fast theme. This is rather provocative compared to their tempo signature because it is too contrast and I am not sure if this is merely only a 'cameos' on the movement because it seems breaking the mood.

III Menuetto: Allegro - the first bar of this 3rd movement sounds very familiar, in the whole I think this movement very close references to Haydn's style.

IV Finale: Presto - again I'm surprised that the final two movements become more Haydn-era styles, compared to the 1st and 2nd movements which I think closer to early Romantic. There is a moment where the first melody went into lower notes, which can be more dramatist in the performing notes.  This finale is rather stormy, but I still feel it should have gone more strong and banging climax.

String Quartet in G major Op.48 No.2 (c 1802)
I. Allegro - this is something like late Haydn pieces. I agree with the liner notes that the melody quite represent the conversation between 1st voices and 2nd voices. The melody is rich in composition, compared to the previous quartet in C (which is more minimalist).

II Adagio un poco Andante - I hear something like 'American' scales is in used right from the starting theme. This is an easy movement to follow, the lower string takes turn to amplify the main theme and it's just a simple theme being developed and repeated. Especially when you reach 5:15, where the pizzicato effects is begin to join the party.  My favorite movement on this CD.

III Menuetto: Allegro - after being spoiled in the 2nd movement, we then get a wake up call in this Menuetto. A lot usage of bending notes techniques, something like the whole quartet is stretching the notes on their fingerboard. We must exercise bit of patience because Reicha seems eagerly to insert a lengthy  improvisation, start from 2:42 to 4:21, before back to the main theme again.

IV Finale: Allegretto - if you expected a stormy finale movement, then again this is not what Reicha gives to us in this finale movement. We get two rounds of mid tempo theme, the climax only come after this (at 2:34). We must accepted that a stormy finish to the quartet in not Reicha's styles. I'm going to throw in provocative thought that Reicha is more like Mendelssohn, who very strong in melody but not much rely on 'bombastic' trick to attracted his listener.

Quotes from the booklet:

Anton Reicha's String Quartets
3 String Quartets, Op.48
in C major, G major, E flat major
(Vienna late 1801-January 1803)

3 String Quartets, Op.49
in C minor, D major, B flat major
(Vienna 1802-04)

Grand Quartet in C major, Op.52
String Quartet in A major Op.58

6 String Quartets Op.90
in E flat major, G major, C major, E minor, F major
D major, 1819

3 String Quartets Op.94
in A major, E flat major, F minor, 1824

3 String Quartets Op.95
in E major, D major, C major, 1824

Quartuor Scientifique, 1806 Op.36 
La Pantomime, Fantasia for String Quartet, 1806
Overture for String Quartet Sessions, 1816
14 String Quartets found in Hamburg
5 fugues for string quartet, 1809
Armonia al revescio, completed 11 June 1834, perhaps his final works
5 fugues, a Harmonie retrograde, a variation set, and a funemral march for string quartet, 1824-26

The package just published its Volume 1 at the time of writing this blog. The booklet is great with in deep article "Introducing Anton Reicha's Vienna String Quartets" by Ron Drummond, "The Reicha Quartet From Where We Site" by the ensemble first violinist Peter Sheppard Skærved. The volume were recorded as fresh as February 2013. Ron Drummond had been writing about Anton Reicha for years and his writing can be found in this link.

"I am convinced that the absence of Reicha's quartets from the repertoire seriously impoverishes our understanding of the evolution of the string quartet – that's how significant Reicha's quartets are."

Anton Reicha Complete String Quartet Volume 1 - BUY IT HERE (Amazon)

String Quartet in C major Op.48 No.1 (c 1802)
I Allegro non troppo
II Adagio
III Menuetto: Allegro
IV Finale: Presto

String Quartet in G major Op.48 No.2 (c 1802)
I Allegro
II Adagio un poco Andante
III Menuetto: Allegro
IV Finale: Allegretto