Hyperion Records

Sextet for two violins, two violas and two cellos
1st movement completed 27 April 1920; revised and remaining movements added May 1924; first performed by the Zika Quartet with Paul and Rudolf Hindemith at the Donaueschingen Festival, 19 July 1924; published 1978

'Martinů & Schulhoff: String Sextets' (CDH55321)
Martinů & Schulhoff: String Sextets
Buy by post £5.50 CDH55321  Helios (Hyperion's budget label)  
Movement 1: Allegro risoluto
Track 7 on CDH55321 [5'46] Helios (Hyperion's budget label)
Movement 2: Tranquillo: Andante
Track 8 on CDH55321 [7'22] Helios (Hyperion's budget label)
Movement 3: Burlesca: Allegro molto con spirito
Track 9 on CDH55321 [3'32] Helios (Hyperion's budget label)
Movement 4: Molto adagio
Track 10 on CDH55321 [6'55] Helios (Hyperion's budget label)

Sextet for two violins, two violas and two cellos
The Five Studies for string quartet and the Sextet were the most successful of Schulhoff’s works heard at the 1924 festivals, perhaps the high point of his pre-communist years. The Sextet was first heard on 19 July at Donaueschingen (the day before Schoenberg’s Serenade Op 24 was premiered at the same festival) played by the Czechoslovak Zika Quartet, with Paul Hindemith playing second viola and his younger brother Rudolf second cello. Schulhoff’s Five Studies were introduced three weeks later at the Salzburg Festival. Schulhoff’s two different works had varied fates. The Studies, in popular idioms, were soon published and taken up, but the Sextet—a very serious, indeed deeply tragic work making considerable technical demands—was rarely heard and remained unpublished until 1978.

The first movement was finished on 27 April 1920 in Dresden; he returned to it four years later, in Prague, adding the other three movements by the end of May. In Dresden, Schulhoff had made a deep study of Schoenberg’s music: the strongly chromatic nature of the Sextet’s first movement reveals such study, although it is not consciously atonal. For, in spite of the work’s deeply depressive emotional state and seeming absence of tonality, it is derived from, and virtually underpinned throughout the four movements by, a constantly destabilizing chord of C–Db–G. These three notes are specially significant throughout the piece. They begin the work, and form a pedal ostinato for the main themes in the first movement coda. In its initial shape and in its constantly fluid transformations, the three-note cell permeates the entire Sextet, lending it a monothematic character—the pedal C–G opens the second movement in a calmer and more peaceable mood dominated by a yearning, long-breathed cantilena (‘senza espressione’) which is heard three times. In this movement the texture of the work assumes a greater structural function, revealing the influence of late Debussy, in particular his late sonatas. The Burlesca is an incisive 5/8 movement of tempestuous character, fiendishly virtuosic for the players. The finale also shows the influence of late Debussy, being a lyrical meditation upon earlier material which, constantly descending, eventually returns to, and ends with, a muted chord of C–Db–G. The chord demands that the Db is heard as a flattened supertonic, and so one could claim that Schulhoff’s Sextet is in C, a rough-hewn work of deep brooding fearfulness.

from notes by Robert Matthew-Walker © 1992

Track-specific metadata
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Details for CDH55321 track 10
Molto adagio
Recording date
23 July 1991
Recording venue
St Joseph's College, Mill Hill, London, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Andrew Keener
Recording engineer
Tryggvi Tryggvason & Andrew Hallifax
Hyperion usage
  1. Martinu & Schulhoff: String Sextets (CDA66516)
    Disc 1 Track 10
    Release date: April 1992
    Deletion date: April 2007
    Superseded by CDH55321
  2. Martinu & Schulhoff: String Sextets (CDH55321)
    Disc 1 Track 10
    Release date: June 2008
    Helios (Hyperion's budget label)
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