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String Sextet Op.10/Piano Quintet Op.15
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Korngold's String Sextet, written when the composer was just 19 years old, is a remarkable work for one so young - so assured. Brendan G. Carroll writing in his biography of Korngold commented: This is unquestionably his finest chamber work, and within its four-movement scheme it encompasses an astonishing range of moods. The delightful Intermezzo with its free variation of the Motiv des Fröhlichen Herzens (Motto of the Cheerful Heart), from the Sinfonietta in B Major, is perhaps the most endearing music Korngold ever wrote. The fascinating, translucent six-part writing is skilfully and imaginatively handled with the instruments circling each other. Although basically Late-Romantic in essence, it sounds quite modern and radical, flecks of dissonance and moments of anxiety interrupting the first movement's lyrical flow. The Adagio-Langsam, second movement, for the most part, except for a passionate peaking, broods in pitiful melancholy. The delightful Intermezzo that follows should provide a relief from so much angst and the Finale gallops away in abandoned exultation. The interplay between the musicians here is a joy to the ear. Technically this is an accomplished performance but to my ears the central two movements have been taken a little too seriously. The Piano Quintet was premiered in Hamburg on 16 February 1923, followed by its first performance in Vienna a few days later. It was a huge success. Brendan G. Carroll commented: Korngold, himself, took the piano part, on both occasions, and his impassioned performance no doubt contributed to the work's impact. The first of the three movements, is marked to be played with rousing blooming expression; this quality is certainly applicable to its march-like figures and its more passionate and dramatic features but the music is at its most appealing when it assumes its lyrical and dream-like character with those sighing drooping figures so common in Korngold's works. The second movement is a set of free variations on Korngold's haunting song Mond, so gehst du wieder auf (Moon thus you rise again) from his lovely song cycle Vier Lieder des Abschieds. Taken together, this forms a beautifully expressive piece of night music. Although again I felt slightly on edge that despite committed playing technically, this felt just that bit up-tight. The Finale is a light-hearted romp with music pointing towards Korngold's Much Ado About Nothing incidental music. The recorded sound is warm with clear space between the musicians. Technically accomplished performances but, at times, a little cold-hearted. --Ian Lace - Music Web International