Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Hagen Quartett - Schubert String Quartet in D Minor Death and the Maiden Ravel String Quartet in F Major|
Genres: Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts
The Hagen Quartet Plays Two Very Different Masterpieces
J Scott Morrison | Middlebury VT, USA | 02/23/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The Hagen Quartet is surely the finest string quartet to come out of Austria since the Berg Quartet. Formed in the early 1980s with four Hagen siblings, second violinist Angelika Hagen dropped out in the late 1980s and was replaced briefly by Annette Bik who was then replaced by the current second violinist, Rainer Schmidt. We see, in this DVD, the quartet in two performances recorded thirteen years apart and with one change of personnel. In 1987 they recorded the 'Death and the Maiden' Quartet of Schubert with Bik, and they recorded the Ravel Quartet in 2000 with Schmidt. It is as if they were two completely different quartets. That may be partly due to the extreme differences between the Schubert and Ravel Quartets. But in the Schubert they play like, dare I say it, a German quartet, and I swear that in the Ravel they sound French. The differences are subtle but real and not entirely due to the change in personnel. But Schmidt is a more refined player than Bik was. And certainly the Quartet have matured in the intervening years between the two recordings. One hears a fineness of tone and dynamics in the Ravel that was not present in the rather less nuanced Schubert. The two performances are recorded in different venues, and that may account for some of the difference in sound.
Be all that as it may, both performances are quite satisfying. The 'Death and the Maiden' is recorded in the splendor of the Baroque Library in Vorau, Austria. The ornate gold and polished wood library with its domed ceiling and five-meter-high bookcases filled with leather-bound books is a visual treat. The musical highlight, if I had to pick one, of the Schubert performance is the second movement's fourth variation with its delicate first-violin tracery floating over hushed fragments of the theme in the other instruments. The tarantella of the final movement comes across as a dance of death, surely what Schubert wanted. (One recalls that the 'tarantella' was originally the dance-unto-death of a tarantula-bitten person.)
The Ravel Quartet was recorded in the Grosser Saal of the Mozarteum in Salzburg, a much plainer but still gorgeous venue. The Quartet's playing here is a lovely combination of classical clarity and impressionistic suggestion. It is astonishing to remember that Ravel wrote the quartet while still at the Paris Conservatoire but that there is absolutely nothing student-like about it. After the vigorous opening movement, the second movement is played pizzicato (as is the second movement of Debussy's single quartet which Ravel had taken as his inspiration and model). One of its felicities is the occurrence of what I've come to think of as its 'simultaneous hemiola' which consists of the first violin and cello playing in 3/4 (three groups of two notes per measure) while the second violin and viola play in 6/8 (two groups of three notes per measure). It is handled by the Hagens with both delicacy and élan. This is followed by the evocative third movement, Très lent, with its episodic construction and varying tempi. The finale is characterized by its Russian feel (just as the second reminds one of Javanese gamelan music) and its 5/8 meter. As in the third movement, Ravel again uses the main theme of the quartet's opening moments. This is a superb performance by the Hagen Quartet, one of the best I've ever heard.
Enthusiastically recommended for the Ravel, only slightly less so for the Schubert.
Zarathustra | Sacramento, CA USA | 05/10/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Hagen Quartett - Schubert: String Quartet in D Minor "Death and the Maiden"; Ravel: String Quartet in F Major Have you ever seen a DVD of a string quartet that is not composed of four balding old men looking extremely grave and serious? I didn't think so. Well, you're in for a shock here. Nor only do we have young men here but two, count 'em, two young women performing in the Schubert quartet! And the performances are vigorous and fun to watch. Excellent performances in interesting locations, a hallmark of Euroarts DVDs.