A quartet celebrates a seminal date to rousing effect

Schumann Quartet: 1923 – 100 Years of Radio

The Strad Issue: May 2024

Description: A quartet celebrates a seminal date to rousing effect

Musicians: Schumann Quartet

Works: Berg: String Quartet op.3. Copland: Movement. Hindemith: Minimax. Janáček: String Quartet no.1 ‘The Kreutzer Sonata’. Schulhoff: Five Pieces

Catalogue number: BERLIN CLASSICS 0302968BC

Among the many fateful events marking the year 1923 on the political and economic levels was Germany’s first ever radio broadcast, hence the album’s title. That year’s summer also witnessed the first Chamber Music Festival of the recently founded – and still flourishing – International Society for Contemporary Music. All the composers included on this enterprising programme were in attendance at that momentous event, held in Salzburg, which was inaugurated with a performance of Alban Berg’s op.3.

The Schumann Quartet invests this seminal piece with an endlessly varied tonal palette, faithfully realising every one of Berg’s instructions from an almost toneless sul tasto all the way to a shrieking ponticello. The group’s beautifully blended tone makes for an uncommonly compact rendition, with violist Veit Hertenstein, who joined the three Schumann brothers in 2022, fitting like the proverbial glove into their powerhouse ensemble. The other large-scale piece on the programme is Janáček’s String Quartet no.1, given an exhilarating reading by the Schumann, who fearlessly enter the Moravian composer’s highly personal sound world. The six movements of Hindemith’s Minimax are played in a poker-faced manner that befits their none-too-subtle humour. The Schumann makes a convincing case for the young Copland’s standalone Movement, too, while Schulhoff’s scurrilous Five Pieces – a waltz in common time is followed by a Mediterranean-sounding serenade in 5/8 – are great fun and bring this vividly recorded, most enjoyable recital to a fitting end.