Korngold is the star on this characterful album

Nash Ensemble: Korngold, Tchaikovsky

The Strad Issue: April 2024

Description: Korngold is the star on this characterful album

Musicians: Nash Ensemble

Works: Korngold: String Sextet in D major op.10. Tchaikovsky: Souvenir de Florence

Catalogue number: HYPERION CDA68406

The Nash Ensemble launches into Tchaikovsky’s string sextet Souvenir de Florence with drive and energy, rich sound and opulent vibrato. In the second-movement Adagio cantabile violinist Stephanie Gonley and cellist Adrian Brendel play their beautiful duet with supple beauty, relaxed and warm yet firmly paced, and they all skitter splendidly through the saltando section of the following Allegretto moderato. There are moments of lightness in the finale, with its fugal counterpoint neatly done. This is playing that combines beauty and character, and if it’s a little heavy at times, that’s down to the composer.

Korngold was still a teenage wunderkind when he wrote his Sextet during the First World War; his deployment of forces is, frankly, more inventive and varied than Tchaikovsky’s. There’s a fair degree of textural complexity here, but the Nash’s clarity of vision is first-rate, as is its instinct for drama, allowing Korngold’s passages of Expressionist ferocity their head. The weaving lines of the Adagio have an anguished tonal intensity, contrasting with the folk-music charm of the third-movement Intermezzo, which is delightfully flexible and lilting here. Korngold asks for fire and humour in the final Presto, which the Nash players deliver with helter-skelter alacrity. The recorded sound is clear and full.