La Scena Musicale

Wednesday, 11 December 2013


Tchaikovsky: Souvenir de Florence Op. 70/Schönberg: Verklärte Nacht Op. 4
Emerson String Quartet
Paul Neubauer, viola II/Colin Carr, cello II
SONY 88725470602

The Emerson String Quartet reigns supreme among string quartets but it has recently undergone some major changes. The original cellist, David Finckel, was recently replaced, and after years with Deutsche Grammophon the group has switched to Sony. This new CD is the Emerson’s first recording for the new label and one of its last recordings with Finckel still in the cello chair. The recordings were made in 2012.

I don’t recall these two works being coupled on a CD but the pairing makes perfect sense. They are both written for the same combination of six string players and they are both romantic masterpieces. The Tchaikovsky first saw the light of day in 1892 and the Schönberg ten years later. Violinist Eugene Druckner has aptly remarked that they represent “two extremely different definitions of romanticism.”

The performances are simply wonderful. I have always loved the Tchaikovsky, but I have never heard it played with such an ideal combination of exuberance, virtuosity and beauty. To my ears Tchaikovsky never wrote anything more beautiful than the opening of the slow movement, and Philip Setzer plays the violin solos with love and poetry.

The expressive intensity of Verklärte Nacht is also perfectly realized with playing of uncommon involvement and unanimity.

By Paul E. Robinson

Buy CD here

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