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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Tough music but worth investigating, 22 May 2001
By 
Dr. R. G. Bullock "Gavin Bullock" (Winchester, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Hartmann: String Quartets Nos. 1 & 2 (Audio CD)
The German composer, Karl Amadeus Hartmann (1905-1963), was in his late 20s when he wrote his first string quartet - in the same year Hitler came to power. He hated the Nazis and spoke out against anti-semitism. As a result, the composer was forced into what he called 'inner emigration'. This was not a happy backdrop to his early works and it shows. The music is often extremely dissonant though there are long stretches of tortured lyricism. Bartok's quartets might be a reference point in terms of listening difficulty.
The first quartet starts with a long, soulful viola melody which is then joined fitfully by the other instruments and you hear eerie, open harmonies. This section has a bleak beauty but is followed by a fast, grotesque folk-like dance. The second movement begins with a high harmonic note. Soon, a falling figure appears which is repeated obsessively and recurs throughout the movement. Out of this, a tragic theme emerges over drone-like harmonies. A fast final movement begins with a quirky tune and the music becomes faster and more dissonant as the end approaches.
The second quartet, completed in 1946, begins slowly and calmly but then becomes fast and furious. A falling, tender tune starts the middle movement, then there is another fast, dissonant period which winds down to become elegiac and slow and ends with a pure, diatonic chord. The final movement is very fast and motoric and the sound word is decidedly Bartokian.
The performances by the Pellegrini Quartet seem very good , as is the recording. The notes take the form of a 'pretend' interview with Hartmann and this has been translated from the original German. The highfalutin ideas combined with an somewhat unidiomatic translation produces something rather weird.
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Hartmann: String Quartets Nos. 1 & 2
Hartmann: String Quartets Nos. 1 & 2 by Pellegrini Qt (Audio CD - 1999)
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