Asasello-Quartett – Arnold Schonberg: Insights: The String Quartets (2016) [Qobuz FLAC 24bit/44,1kHz]

Arnold Schonberg – Insights: The String Quartets – Asasello-Quartett (2016)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/44,1 kHz  | Time – 02:23:13 minutes | 1,32 GB | Genre: Classical
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download – Source: Qobuz | Booklet, Front Cover | © Deutschlandradio and GENUIN classics
Recorded: Funkhaus Köln, Cologne, Germany, November, 17–21, 2014, May, 28–June, 1, 2015

This double album from the exciting, award-winning and unconventional Asasello Quartet features Arnold Schoenberg’s amazingly diverse oeuvre for string quartet. The ensemble proves to be an eloquent advocate for these rarely performed milestones of the repertoire: from the fringes of tonality to free-flowing 12 tone language, the recording showcases an electrifying quartet sound played at a staggering level. Soprano Eva Resch joins the group on the String Quartet No. 2.

The Cologne-based Asasello Quartet have programmed Arnold Schoenberg’s four string quartets in reverse order, a journey from the natty arithmetic of String Quartet No 4 (1936) towards the protean harmonic aerobics of String Quartet No 1 in D minor (1904-5). And I spot a trend. Arriving just a couple of months after Quatuor Diotima released their own box-set of the complete Schoenberg, Webern and Berg quartets, this is heartening – another group in the first flush of youth are prepared to defy the prevailing narrative about Schoenberg representing crusty academic modernism and, instead, make a powerful case that his music has everything to offer both head and heart.
Quatuor Diotima pursued a canny middle course between Schoenberg as a modernist and as a composer earthed in late Romanticism. The Asasello Quartet generally enunciate with a drier tone and view even the First String Quartet as Schoenberg attempting to reach beyond the high Romanticism of Verklärte Nacht – the divorce from tonality secured in String Quartet No 2 (1907-08), the jittery night terror typical of Pierrot lunaire even, is already present in embryo in their perspective on this early score. As the booklet-notes explain, the Asasellos have modelled themselves consciously around the aesthetic of the LaSalle Quartet, and their indebtedness is clear.
The spider’s web of counterpoint that characterises the Third Quartet’s opening movement accrues with such apparent spontaneity that you might believe the music is creating itself in the moment. This is a carefully staged illusion, though: Schoenberg’s assiduously tiered dynamics and dovetailed phrases have all been observed to the letter. If the form of the Third Quartet tumbles into itself, the First explodes outwards and the Asasello Quartet’s performance meets the immensity of Schoenberg’s vision head on. Its 50-minute one-movement structure bends gymnastically around harmonic landmarks, and the Asasellos don’t hold back on the dramatic tension between harmonic instability and windows of still repose.
Their String Quartet No 2 penetrates deep into the poetic core of Schoenberg’s score: the wistful nostalgia of the opening movement bumping into the schizophrenic hysteria of the second – a resolution of sorts found only as the music heads for the foothills of uncertain atonality, a transition that throaty soprano Eva Resch handles with due harmonic diligence. String Quartet No 4 – generally the most problematic of the set – again benefits from the Asasello’s fastidious attention to detail of dynamic and articulation which helps keep Schoenberg’s boxy rhythmic contours alive.
No one who finds themselves in a whirl over Second Viennese School music should be without the Quatuor Diotima’s new box; but definitely it’s worth budgeting for the Asasello Quartet too. The recorded sound is fulgent and graphic, although for some tastes Teemu Myöhänen’s cello might be placed too prominently in the mix. But what playing! –Philip Clark, Gramophone


Arnold Schönberg (1874–1951)

String Quartet No. 4, Op. 37 (1936)
1. I. Allegro molto; energico 09:13
2. II. Comodo 07:25
3. III. Largo 07:34
4. IV. Allegro 08:12

String Quartet No. 3, Op. 30 (1927)
5. I. Moderato 09:07
6. II. Adagio 07:59
7. III. Intermezzo: Allegro moderato 06:45
8. IV. Rondo: Molto moderato 06:19

String Quartet No. 2 in F-sharp minor, Op. 10 (1907–08)
9. I. Massig 07:02
10. II. Sehr rasch 06:41
11. III. Litanei 06:54
12. IV. Entruckung 12:11

String Quartet No. 1 in D minor, Op. 7 (1904–05)
13. Nicht zu rasch – 13:39
14. Kraftig (nicht zu rasch) – 12:35
15. Massig, langsame Viertel – 13:20
16. Massig, heiter 08:17

Rostislav Kozhevnikov, Violin
Barbara Kuster, Violin
Justyna Sliwa, Viola
Teemu Myöhänen, Cello
Guest: Eva Resch, Soprano