|Erwin Schulhoff||Five Pieces for String Quartet|
|1||Alla Valse Viennese||1:59|
|4||Alla Tango Milonga||4:01|
|6||Anton Webern||Langsamer Satz||8:59|
|Jaan Rääts /arr Mihkel Kerem||Concerto for Chamber Orchestra, Op 16
|Pēteris Vasks||String Quartet No 4|
#6, Webern, Lagsamer Satz, fragm, 3 min 58 sec, mp3, 128 kbps
#7, Rääts, Allegro, fragm, 1 min 6 sec, mp3, 128 kbps
#16, Vasks, Meditation, fragm, 3 min 31 sec, mp3, 128 kbps
#5, Schulhoff, Alla Tarantella, fragm, 1 min 25 sec, mp3, 128 kbps
Performed by Prezioso String Quartet: Hanna-Liis Nahkur (1st violin), Mari-Katrina Suss (2nd violin), Anne Ilves (viola), Andreas Lend (cello)
Recorded, edited and mastered by Maido Maadik
Engineered by Jaan Tsadurjan (#7−11)
Licensed by Estonian Public Broadcasting (#7−11)
Liner notes by Anneli Unt
Photo by Kaupo Kikkas
Design by Mart Kivisild
Produced by Peeter Vähi
℗ + © 2012 Prezioso, ERP
Erwin Schulhoff (1894–1942) was one of the brightest figures in a generation of European musicians whose successful careers were prematurely terminated by the rise of the Nazi regime in Germany. Despite making important contributions to the development of European classical music during the early 20th century, their works have largely languished in obscurity, including Schulhoff’s, who died in 1942 in Wülzburg concentration camp in Bavaria.
Born in Prague of Jewish-German origin, he studied later in Leipzig and Cologne. Among his teachers were Max Reger and Claude Debussy. As he entered his 20s, he displayed enormous talent in both performance and composition. A Prague critic said he was “a distinguished virtuoso pianist, especially bred for new music, with a splendid technique, unequalled memory and radical interpretational will; a revolutionary composer, with both feet firmly planted on the ground”.
During these years, Schulhoff plunged into the music of his time. He was influenced by and often performed the music of various contemporary schools, including the atonality of Schoenberg and Alban Berg (with whom he corresponded) and the neoclassicism of Stravinsky and Hindemith. Schulhoff’s own compositions were not simply derivative of these early modernists. Although his work clearly shows their influence, he was able to find his own distinctive voice – in some fashion a combination of expressionism and neoclassicism. Jazz played a particularly important role in Schulhoff’s composition. He worked as a jazz pianist, and his jazz-influenced classical compositions predated those of his near-contemporary Kurt Weill.
“I have a tremendous passion for the fashionable dances and there are times when I go dancing night after night with dance hostesses purely out of rhythmic enthusiasm and subconscious sensuality; this gives my creative work a phenomenal impulse…” (Erwin Schulhoff from a letter to Alban Berg, Feb 1921)
The Five Pieces for String Quartet (1924) contains stylistic connections to both a Baroque dance suite and to other pieces composed by the Second Viennese School, integrating modernist vocabulary, neoclassical elements, jazz, and dance rhythms from a variety of sources and cultures. Each of the pieces evokes a different style of dance music: Viennese Waltz, Serenade, Czech folk music, Tango, Tarantella. The piece was premiered in Aug 1924 at the International Society for New Music Festival in Salzburg, and was dedicated to Darius Milhaud.
“Music should first and foremost produce physical pleasures, yes, even ecstasies. Music is never philosophy, it arises from an ecstatic condition, finding its expression through rhythmical movement.” (Erwin Schulhoff)
Anton Webern (1883–1945) is well-known and needs little introduction as one of the founding fathers of the Second Vienna School and leading proponents of the 12-tone system. However, what is not well-known is that he did write at least two short tonal movements for string quartet.
Langsamer Satz (‘Slow Movement’) dates from 1905 and was said to have been inspired by a hiking holiday in the mountains outside of Vienna Webern took with his soon to be fiancée and later wife. He intended to write an entire quartet but put it aside after completing this one movement. Not surprisingly, the Langsamer Satz is clearly rooted in post-Brahmsian romanticism and tonality, expressing a plethora of emotions from yearning to dramatic turmoil to a tranquil peaceful denouement. This little masterpiece shows that Webern, like Schönberg and Berg, was capable of writing very fine music in a tonal idiom if he chose.
Jaan Rääts (1932) brought into Estonian music a markedly anti-Romantic, active and playful style in the 1960ties, he has always been a composer of neo-classicist orientation linked with contemporary compositional techniques. His playful, concerto-like and rhythm-centred style has influenced the landscape of Estonian music through several decades, indirectly also through his successful students (Raimo Kangro, Erkki-Sven Tüür, Tõnu Kõrvits, Timo Steiner).
“In general, Rääts avoids dramaturgical development and storytelling. Vigorous rhythmic pulse is the basic element of his music, in which the various stylistic fragments revolve as if in a drum mixer: Mozartian triads and modernist clusters, Baroque and folk music motifs, linear polyphony and pop music rhythms. His terse form is the glue that holds together his kaleidoscopic style and balances its rapid contrasts with the symmetries of the overall scheme. Sometimes, lyrical and neo-Romantic figures will flit by in his works but they do not define the general character of the works. Rääts’ playful style generally emanates subtle humour or (self-)irony.” (Evi Arujärv)
Concerto for Chamber Orchestra, Op 16, from 1961, a piece full of energy and rhythmic firework, became a landmark in Estonian new music and has been for decades among the most important and internationally recognized pieces by Estonian composers. Concerto was premiered on Dec 16th, 1961 in Tartu University Hall by conductor Neeme Järvi and since then has been performed in nearly 30 countries by several prominent orchestras.
The Concerto starts with very energetic movement – Allegro, driving in a speed that seems to rush off all slow and static on it’s way. This strengthful speed is powered by a vigorous melody. The 2nd movement – Andante – is crisp and clear, a silent cogitation, which is occasionally interrupted by more expressive fragments. The 3rd movement – Allegro – is a kind of alteration of the 1st movement, but has a slightly different, dancing character. The 4th movement – Grave – is essentially a continuation of the second movement, laconic and minimal. The last movement – Allegro – is a synthesis of all previous parts, where different elements and rhythmic patterns blend together.
Thanks to it’s popularity, the Concerto has been performed also by ensembles different from original version. The arrangement for the string quartet on the current record is made by Mihkel Kerem.
Pēteris Vasks (1946) is a composer with ethical and spiritual convictions. The ethical imperative of his works is that mankind must undertake responsibility for life on earth and for human spirituality.
His String Quartet No 4, commissioned by the Kronos Quartet and premiered in 2000 at the Théâtre de la Ville in Paris, is a spiritual summary of the times. A somber reflection on the passing century, it incorporates Latvian folk songs, its movements are variously meditative, strident, restless, subdued. Vasks has said: “There has been so much bloodshed and destruction, and yet love’s power and idealism have helped to keep the world in balance. I wanted to speak of these things in my new quartet; not from the sidelines, but with direct emotion and sensitivity.”
Indeed, from the folksy melodies through to chaos and back again, we are taken through a myriad of feelings. Vasks’ music is always intense and he knows how to build to a climax, relax, and return the listener to a heightened awareness of drama, and so forth.
The Elegy, a pensive and austere opening, is in the style that Vasks is known for, influenced by the “holy minimalism”, with Latvian folksong motifs and romantic gestures. Toccata I is an aggressive blast of sharp chords and insistent staccato notes that struggle to break free of restraints. The changing textures and rising chromatic modulations of the Chorale make it the most fascinating movement since there are no overt clues to its ultimate resolution. Toccata II resumes the acid harmonies and fierce rhythms of the second movement, aggressive, and at times, ironic. The closing Meditation returns to the first movement’s dark mood, but continues its reverie in a more openly lyrical manner. It features a lovely violin solo, which beautifully expresses the composer’s idea – feeling of compassion.
“His meditative moments will remind listeners of Arvo Pärt; his disruptive passages bring Shostakovitch to mind. But the textures are uniquely Vasks’ and when, at the work’s conclusion, after a return to the folk melody of the first movement, the strings fly up to their highest registers and simply disappear into the ethos, the effect is magical and, somehow, comforting.” (Robert Levine)
Prezioso String Quartet: Hanna-Liis Nahkur (1st violin), Mari-Katrina Suss (2nd violin), Anne Ilves (viola), Andreas Lend (cello).
Prezioso String Quartet was initiated in 2006 by talented young Estonian string players, all graduates from Estonian Academy of Music, where they also studied in Henry-David Varema’s string quartet class. All four are currently playing in Estonian National Symphony Orchestra. Prezioso’s repertoire is various, from classical string quartets to contemporary works and pop music arrangements. They have premiered several new works by Estonian composers, co-operated with various prominent artists like pianists Antti Siirala, Hando Nahkur, composer / conductor Konstantia Gourzi, and Rein Rannap, clarinet player Toomas Vavilov, various singers, Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, etc. Prezioso has been successful in several competitions for string quartets, participated in various music festivals. Besides Estonian stages Prezioso has performed in Finland and the Netherlands and received very warm reception from the audience as well as acclaims from the critics.
Their first CD includes three works written by composers in the same age as members of the quartet are today (Rääts and Schulhoff – 29, Webern – 22). These compositions contain youthful energy and intensity, which is very common to the players of Prezioso themselves. However, the ethical senibility and deepness of more mature composer Vasks is also very close to these young and passionate musicians.
Special thanks: Cultural Endowment of Estonia, Estonian Public Broadcasting, Estonian National Symphony Orchestra, Kadri Tali, Arvo-Artur Palu, Hanna-Liis Nahkur
Distribution in Estonia by Easy-Living Music (firstname.lastname@example.org, phone +372 51 06058) and Prezioso. Worldwide distribution until 2020 by Note 1 Music (Carl-Benz-Straße 1, 69115 Heidelberg, Germany, phone +49 6221 720351, fax +49 6221 720381, email@example.com, www.note-1.de).