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Hyperion Records

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Track(s) taken from CDA67574
Recording details: April 2006
Henry Wood Hall, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Andrew Keener
Engineered by David Hinitt
Release date: February 2007
Total duration: 40 minutes 12 seconds

'[Piano Quartet] An enjoyable piece … expansively dramatic and genuinely expressive with that touch of spontaneity which signals Strauss at his best' (Gramophone)

'Reducing the string size of Strauss's Metamorphosen from 23 to the seven of the composer's short score … might seem to be going light on the tragic force of this great wartime elegy. Not so in the hands of The Nash Ensemble. If anything Strauss's most private moments of grief have even more eloquence … the recap almost breaks the heart in its restored purity of expression [Prelude to Capriccio] … truthful recording does full justice to the warmth, poise and integration of these marvellous performances' (BBC Music Magazine)

'This captivating disc from the Nash Ensemble features music from both ends of Richard Strauss's long and productive life. The Piano Quartet in C minor … is a remarkable piece … The Nash players certainly give it their all and make one wonder why it's not better known. More familiar is Strauss's great late lament Metamorphosen, but it is played here in a realisation of his original draft for seven strings rather than the 23 he eventually settled upon. With a performance as searing as this, it makes just as much of a mark as the better-established "orchestral" version—the textures sound just as full, yet the intertwining lines emerge with greater focus and the whole is underlined by the tonal solidity of Duncan McTier's double bass. An equally seductive account of the string sextet Prelude to Capriccio completes the programme' (The Daily Telegraph)

'I am lost in admiration at The Nash Ensemble's achievement here in capturing the music's noble intensity with an emotional flexibility and glowing textural fluidity denied even Karajan's sensational Berlin players at their most refulgent. Captured in immaculately balanced, velvety sound by producer Andrew Keener and engineer David Hinitt, this is a performance that gets right to the heart of this glorious score, tantalizingly retaining its chamber-scale purity even when Strauss is at his most super-heated. There are magic moments galore along the way, but to hear Marianne Thorsen and her fabulous team soar aloft with the pulsating phrases the briefly resolve at 16'48" is an unforgettable experience … there's also an exemplary booklet note by Strauss scholar Michael Kennedy. Highly recommended' (International Record Review)

'The Nash's performance, angry and grieving, is faultless [Metamorphosen] … The real treat here is the Piano Quartet, dating from 1885, when Strauss, then aged 21, still considered himself a Brahmsian … the best of it anticipates the chamber-oriented scoring of such later works as Ariadne auf Naxos and Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme. The over-dominant piano part—Strauss wrote it as a showpiece for himself—is played with tremendous panache by Ian Brown' (The Guardian)

'The music's autumnal soulfulness suits the Nash Ensemble's house style to near-perfection … the same classy artistry shines through their performances of the string sextet prelude to Strauss's last opera Capriccio, and of the much earlier Piano Quartet— Brahms and Schumann-influenced and very attractive' (Classic FM Magazine)

'This is one of the most delicious disacs to come out of the Hyperion stable … [Metamorphosen] Each line shines anew here, each crushing harmony showing Strauss pishing at the barriers of tonality with effervescent gusto. This performance is breathtaking, with The Nash Ensemble understanding direction and phrasing, interlocking Strauss's ideas seamlessly' (HMV Choice)

'There's certainly every reason to hear this glorious and desperately sorrowful lament for a lost civilisation … in this version, especially when it's as beautifully played as by the Nash Ensemble members represented here' (Manchester Evening News)

'The Nash members are really under the skin of Strauss’s music and bring out desperation and beauty in equal measure … with recorded sound that puts the listener in the middle of the action without intimidation—how well the piano is balanced with the string trio – and scholarly notes from Michael Kennedy, this is a quite superb issue' (ClassicalSource.com)

'Das Klavierquartett sed 21-jährigen Strauss ist ein dankbareres Stück für das Nash Ensemble, das ungeheuer viel Energie in dieses Stück einbringt, in dem der Komponist für sich selber einen besonders brillanten Klavierpart schrieb, den Ian Brown hoch virtuos spielt' (Pizzicato, Luxembourg)

Piano Quartet in C minor, Op 13
composer
1 January 1885; first performed in Weimar 8 December 1885 by members of the Halír Quartet with Strauss at the piano

Allegro  [13'51]
Andante  [9'19]
Finale: Vivace  [10'19]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
We can get some idea of the distance Strauss travelled in his career from the Piano Quartet, composed sixty years before Metamorphosen. One could be forgiven for thinking that the Quartet is by some other composer, one in thrall to Brahms, as indeed Strauss was in 1885. It is instructive to read a review of a performance of this work written in 1904, nine months before he died at the age of forty-three, by Arthur Johnstone of the Manchester Guardian, a critic of immense perspicacity and knowledge. In it, he thought, Strauss ‘shows himself a better Brahmsian than Brahms, avoiding all his model’s worst faults … The quartet … might rank as the mature work of anyone but Strauss’. It is a work on a big scale, lasting some forty minutes, structurally strong, the first movement in particular showing a dramatic grasp of symphonic tension. Echt-Strauss of course it is not, but it is impossible not to admire, even at times to love, its audacities. He completed it in Munich on New Year’s Day 1885, having worked on it the previous year during his visit to Berlin. The first performance was in Weimar on 8 December 1885 by members of the Halír Quartet with Strauss playing the piano part. The following month it was repeated at Meiningen, where Strauss was then court conductor. He dedicated it to his employer, the Grand Duke, ‘in gratitude’. The work won the prize given by the Berlin Tonkünstler Verein for a piano quartet (there were twenty-four entries).

Perhaps, however, one should recognize the real Strauss in the broad sweep of the second subject of the first movement and in the Till-like way in which he switches moods during this Allegro. In the skittish Scherzo, placed second, we can hear pre-echoes of the Burleske for piano and orchestra, composed in 1886, another work for which Brahms was the inspiration but in which the Strauss we know makes several guest appearances. The delightful trio section returns in the coda. The melodies of the slow movement are profuse in their emotional richness. If they are sentimental, they do not outstay their welcome; and where will we hear that intriguing little triplet figure again? In Ariadne auf Naxos! The finale is more Schumann than Brahms, but here too the keen ear will detect foreshadowings of the mature Strauss in some of the subsidiary figures.

from notes by Michael Kennedy © 2007

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