Strong, Focused Hartmann From The Airis Quartet

Review by: Jed Distler


Artistic Quality: 8

Sound Quality: 9

Karl Amadeus Hartmann’s two string quartets are tightly crafted, emotionally wide ranging, and powerfully communicative yet uncompromising. They also are sadly overlooked, which is why new recordings always are welcome, especially with an ensemble as solid and committed as the Airis Quartet. In the First quartet first movement they lash out in the abrupt fortissimo outbursts with tighter synchronicity than the no-less formidable Zehetmair Quartet on ECM, while bringing a subtle range of nuance to the second movement’s sustained muted writing.

Perhaps the close engineering helps to underline the dense and harmonically rich tuttis in the Second quartet’s first movement to more intense effect than in CPO’s relatively leaner Pellegrini-Quartett recording. Yet while the Airis is unrelentingly grim and hard-hitting throughout the Finale’s bleakly scampering passages, some listeners may find the lighter and faster Pellegrini reading easier to take in. The Airis Quartet never plays less than well in Webern’s youthful Slow Movement, but I’m still spoiled by the Quartetto Italiano’s ravishing refinement and shapelier handling of the back-and-forth pizzicatos. While my preference leans toward the Pellegrini-Quartett, the Airis Quartet’s undeniable strength and focus deserve equal attention.

Buy Now from Arkiv Music

Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Hartmann Quartets: Pellegrini-Quartett (CPO), Webern: Quartetto Italiano (Decca)

    Airis String Quartet

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