Klassik  Kammermusik Instrumental
Apollon Musagète Quartett Haydn - Brahms - Szymanowski - Shchedrin OC 749 CD
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FormatAudio CD
Ordering NumberOC 749
Release date07/04/2010
Players/ContributorsMusicians Composer
  • Brahms, Johannes
  • Haydn, Joseph
  • Shchedrin, Rodion
  • Szymanowski, Karol

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      OehmsClassics debut: Apollon Musagéte Quartett
      Joseph Haydn: String Quartet in D Major op. 71/2
      Johannes Brahms: String Quartet in A Minor op. 51/2
      Karol Szymanowski: String Quartet No. 1 in C Major op. 37
      Rodion Shchedrin: Lyric Scenes for string quartet
      Apollon Musagéte Quartett

      The Apollon Musagète Quartett consists of four young Polish musicians. After completing their studies as solo concert performers and beginning their activities as soloists and orchestral musicians in leading positions, they decided instead to go for a common future in a quartet formation. The Apollon Musagète Quartett was founded in 2006 in Vienna. Only two years later, it won First Prize in the International ARD Music Competition in Munich. Its career has progressed at lightning speed ever since. In the meantime, the quartet has debuted in some of Europe’s most important halls, including Munich’s Herkulessaal, the Berlin Philharmonie and London’s Wigmore Hall. In the current season, the ensemble is booked for concerts in the Dresden Philharmonie, the Fruchthalle Kaiserslautern, the Schwetzingen Young string quartet conquers major stages Festspiele, the Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival and more. Appearances in the Philharmonie in Cologne, Laeiszhalle in Hamburg, Concertgebouw in Amsterdam are planned for 2011. The Apollon Musagète Quartett’s debut CD shows various sides of its work: the Viennese Classic in a modern interpretation, the great romantic repertoire as well as works of Polish composers. In addition, the CD contains the compulsory work for string quartet commissioned by the ARD International Music Composition in 2008: Rodion Shchedrin’s “Lyric Scenes”, for which the AMQ additionally won a special prize, over and above its First Prize.

      “Of all the quartets of the younger generation that I know, I consider the Apollon Musagéte Quartett to be the best. I predict a great career for this group!”
      Günther Pichler, Alban Berg Quartett

      A portrait of the Apollon Musagète Quartet

      Although their success was not entirely unexpected, the storm by which they took both jury and audience alike was certainly a small sensation. Not only did they land First Prize, they pocketed nearly all special prizes as well. This was in 2008 at the 57th International ARD Music Competition in Munich, when string quartets – among other disciplines – were vying for awards. At this point in time, the Apollon Musagète Quartet was barely two years old.

      Pawel Załejski and Bartosz Zachłod (violins), Piotr Szumieł (viola) and Piotr Skweres (cello) founded their string quartet in Vienna in 2006. Its name refers to Apollon musagète – a ballet by Igor Stravinsky from 1927/28 that was written in two scenes and which achieved fame when it was danced to choreography by George Balanchine in Paris’s Théâtre Sarah-Bernardt. The story is quickly told: Apollo, the god of music, dances with the three muses Calliope (poetry), Polyhymnia (hymns) and Terpsichore (dance), finally leading them to Mount Parnassus.

      “We want to fulfill the Apollonian,” say the four Polish musicians in a conversation with the chamber music journal Ensemble (1/2010). Their goal: “To bring all the arts together. We want to think multidimensionally and shape all aspects of the music: its sound as well as its theatrical possibilities.” In this context, the word ‘multidimensional’ also refers to the group’s interpretations, which are always the result of collaborative examination and discourse in which all quartet members have equal say. The quartet’s most influential teachers were the members of the Alban Berg Quartet. Shortly after the founding of the Apollon Musagète Quartet, it was accepted into the renowned European Chamber Music Academy (ECMA).

      “The advantage of the ECMA, in contrast to similar institutions, is that it provides young artists with many differing views and approaches to works.” But “when one is faced with so many different opinions, one is forced to decide. This helped us find out what suits us and our way of playing.” Before we reach any decisions, however, we study the music intensively. “Playing string quartets is a full-time job,” say the group’s members. “One plays from morning to night. Of course, it is very important to know about performance practice and tradition. We first analyze the score; everyone for himself first; then we meet to discuss it together.”

      This process leads to common results – even though the results can evolve as well. This is what astonishes the listener about the Apollon Musagète Quartet’s interpretation of Joseph Haydn’s String Quartet in D Major Hob. III:70, op. 71/2 on its debut CD. Anyone who heard the four musicians performing Mozart’s “Dissonance Quartet” during the 2008 semifinals of the ARD Music Competition will notice the light, almost springy articulation and sparing use of vibrato in the Haydn on this recording. Between the competition and now, the ensemble’s view of the Viennese Classic has changed; their interpretation of Johannes Brahms’ String Quartet in A Minor, op. 51/2 likewise fascinates with its expansive and lucid lyricism that shows the romantic composer more as a classicist.

      An essential aspect of their artistic and programmatic profile is also the explanation and presentation of generally less well-known music from their Polish homeland. “This is one of the points we wish to realize,” they symemphasize. For their first CD, they have selected the String Quartet No. 1 in C Major op. 37 by Karol Szymanowski. This work was written in summer 1917 and reveals influences from French Impressionism as well as the ecstatic lyricism of an Alexander Scriabin or a Richard Strauss. Sharp dissonances, which – as Szymanowski writes – evoke an “erotic climate” as the “unpredictable exaltation of the psyche”, lead into the “palpable material of sound”.

      This CD also includes the first recording of Rodion Shchedrin’s Lyric Scenes for string quartet. The piece was composed in 2006 as a required work for all string quartets participating in the 57th ARD Music Competition. Its premiere took place on September 11, 2008 in Munich’s Prinzregententheater as part of the quartet semifinals, and the Apollon Musagète Quartet was honored with a special prize for its interpretation. The quartet’s very title discloses the fact that the Russian composer is reflecting upon 20th century music.

      In 1925/26, for example, Alban Berg composed his Lyric Suite for string quartet, which in turn refers back to Alexander von Zemlinsky’s Lyric Symphony from 1922/23. Shchedrin’s Lyric Scenes are broken down into eighteen sections headed by alphabetic letters. These indicate nine concrete designations that refer to tempo and character. The scenes are not strictly separate, but for the most part, segue directly into one another. Numerous tricky double-stops, unison passages in 32nd notes, techniques involving specific noises on the instruments or retreating into a breathy, almost inaudible pianissimo realm: all of these procedures are brilliantly used and make the work a challenge at both the technical and interpretive levels.

      This premiere was the begin of the Apollon Musagète Quartet’s occupation with modern contemporary music – one that the group intends to continue. In addition, the four musicians are active chamber music teachers. Every year in mid-August, they invite four unknown but concert-ready quartets to participate in master courses in Goslar, Germany. The young musicians are granted full scholarships. It is now intended to expand this course into an Apollon Musagète Quartet Festival, “of course, based on our idea of Apollon Musagète”, they reveal – “with speakers at the concerts as well as other aspects”. It will be exciting to see the many other ideas that this quartet will develop.

      Florian Olters
      Translation: Elizabeth Gahbler

      All direct quotes were graciously provided by: Carsten Dürer: Erfolgsrezept: Ideenreichtum & Konsequenz. Apollon Musagète Quartet, in: Ensemble, 1/2010, pp. 10-15, with English translations by E. Gahbler.

      Tracklist hide

      CD 1
      • Joseph Haydn
        String Quartet in D major, Hob.III:70, op. 71/2
        • 1.Adagio – Allegro06:05
        • 2.Adagio cantabile05:17
        • 3.Menuetto. Allegro01:54
        • 4.Finale. Allegretto03:48
      • Johannes Brahms
        String Quartet in A minor, op. 51 No. 2
        • 5.Allegro non troppo09:44
        • 6.Andante moderato09:30
        • 7.Quasi Minuetto. Moderato04:58
        • 8.Finale. Allegro non assai07:03
      • Karol Szymanowski
        String Quartet No. 1 in C major, op. 37
        • 9.Lento assai – Allegro moderato07:06
        • 10.Andantino semplice (In modo d’una canzone)06:12
        • 11.Vivace. Scherzando alla Burlesca04:04
      • Rodion Shchedrin
        • 12.Lyrische Szenen für Streichquartett
          Lyric Scenes for String Quartet
      • Total:01:14:47