The Strad Issue: February 2016
Description: Premiere recordings of chamber music that’s truly worth investigating
Musicians: ARC Ensemble
Composer: Fitelberg

Jerzy Fitelberg, born in Poland in 1903, ended up in New York avoiding the Nazis. By the time he died in 1951 he was feted by the contemporary music community and beyond. His neglect since then is evidenced by this disc: these are all premiere recordings of fine music. The ARC Ensemble does the composer proud. The First Quartet, written in 1926, opens and closes with a Presto full of motoric bustle, with an interlude for some quirky, wistful violin playing from Erika Raum. In the three inner movements, full of innovative writing and colourful textures, the playing is neat and often exuberant.

The ARC Ensemble gets up a good head of steam in the first movement of Second Quartet and is magical in the long central Andante – gently flowing, melancholy and sublime. The finale has a hint of jazz, and a touch of swing in the playing. Violist Steven Dann is nimble and dextrous in the captivating Serenade for viola and piano, and violinists Benjamin Bowman and Raum bring subtle, expressive playing to the superb 1939 Sonatine for two violins. Nachtmusik, which ends the disc, is a haunting work for clarinet, cello and celesta. This is a disc worth hearing: first-class music, well played and recorded.

Tim Homfray