The Strad issue
Opulent performances of two lush chamber works
Doric Quartet, Jennifer Stumm* (viola) Bartholomew LaFollette* (cello) Kathryn Stott† (piano)
In this follow-up to the Doric Quartet’s well-received disc of the three Korngold string quartets (reviewed in The Strad, November 2010), the foursome expands its personnel to explore two complementary chamber works. The Sextet, a product of the composer’s late teenage years, is given a sinuous, alert account, alive to every subtle shade in the music’s textural colouring, and with Jennifer Stumm and Bartholomew LaFollette blending seamlessly into the ensemble.
The Piano Quintet was written immediately after Korngold’s completion of his opera Die tote Stadt and shares some of that work’s fantasy and expansiveness. At its heart, though, is an absorbing set of variations on themes from another of his contemporary works, the Abschiedslieder. The Doric players and pianist Kathryn Stott bring a surging sweep to the opening movement’s melodies, with the strings’ portamentos and the whole ensemble’s rubato sounding unforced and spontaneous. They exploit all the music’s phantasmal explorations through the series of variations, where their tonal opulence and timbral range seem to burst the bounds of the chamber medium. Their finale is equally refined, bringing out the wit and bonhomie of its quirky themes.
The recorded sound, from the Britten Studio at Snape Maltings, is faultless.