KORNGOLD Piano Quintet and String Sextet
– Ensemble Magazine (Germany)
After their highly praised recordings of the three quartets by Erich Wolfgang Korngold (1897-1957), the Dorics have expanded forces to perform the composer’s two voluptuous early chamber works, written decades before the Hollywood film scores that would make this Austro-Hungarian composer famous. The String Sextet Op 10 (in which the Doric Quartet are joined by Jennifer Stumm, viola, and Bartholomew Lafollette, cello) was completed during the first world war, when Korngold was writing the opera Violanta. The works occupy a similarly lyrical, melancholy and highly chromatic sound world. The Piano Quintet (with Kathryn Stott) dates from slightly later and, with late Romantic echoes of Elgar and Rachmaninov, revolves round an expansive adagio consisting of nine free variations. The performances are superb.
The Observer – February 26th 2012
The Doric Quartet seem to have a Midas touch and any repertoire, however obscure, they commit to disc comes out sparkling. This is their second Korngold release, following an earlier disc of the composer’s String Quartets. Praise for that recording was universal, and this one looks set for a similar reception. Given the rapid ascent of this group’s reputation, they could be forgiven for cashing in on the core repertoire. If they were to record Beethoven’s Quartets, for example, the results would no doubt be among the best on the market and would certainly sell as such. That’s not their style, and the group’s commitment to exploring neglected works is all the more admirable for the fact that, commercially speaking, it is wholly unnecessary.
The performance and recording are first rate. The Dorics have found an ideal collaborator in Kathryn Stott, who has no apparent difficulties with the music’s many technical demands and who fits seamlessly into the ensemble. That is part of Korngold’s plan, I suspect, and he never writes anything that might set the piano in opposition to the strings. In fact, he often uses heavy pizzicatos from the string players to imitate the attack of the piano. This, and many other of Korngold’s textural devices, work all the better for the Doric’s assertive but always precise and controlled playing.
(In the Sextet), again, the Doric Quartet works with collaborators who are clearly well up to the task. Violist Jennifer Stumm and cellist Bartholomew LaFollette have no problems fitting into the ensemble, which is all the more impressive given that Korngold regularly writes passages in unison and octaves, the sort of textures that routinely catch out even the best groups. The interpretation is just as flexible and lively as in the Quintet. Korngold has plenty of surprises up his sleeve in this score too, and the players make an excellent job of switching between styles and moods as the music requires, yet never letting any of these changes affect the continuity of the whole.
As with previous Doric Quartet releases on Chandos (Walton; Schumann), the sound quality is excellent, clear and detailed but also immediate and involving. A louder piano sound could be justified, although in the context of this interpretation the balance seems fine. Similarly with the bass in the Sextet, we could hear more from the bottom of the texture, but instead the engineers have gone for an even response across the range, which better matches Korngold’s finely balanced textures.
Even by the Doric Quaret’s now well-established standards, this is an impressive release. It is to be hoped that the obscure repertoire won’t put off potential listeners, as playing of this standard deserves to find the widest possible audience.
The Doric String Quartet and friends evoke a sepia-toned bygone time in their delicate but enthusiastic interpretations. They are too intelligent to add extra emotion to pieces already bursting with it; instead they faithfully enter the spirit of old Vienna…the Piano Quintet’s slow movement is a special highlight – rapt, tender and sincere.
BBC Music Magazine
The Quintet opens with one of those glorious Korngoldian melodies of the type that would later translate into music for the silver screen…The Sextet is given an equally vigorous and stylish reading with passages of great tenderness…It aches to have lyrics attached – at least that is how the vocal quality of the playing emerges in this warmly recorded disc with its excellent booklet.