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Jessica Duchen is cap​ti​vated by the con​trasts and cre​ativ​ity found in this so​phis​ti​cated show​piece

Korn​gold: String Quar​tet No. 2; Schul​hoff Five Pieces for String Quar​tet; Desy​at​nikov: Yid​dish Hila Bag​gio (so​prano); Jerusalem Quar​tet Har​mo​nia Mundi HMM 902631 59:50 mins This ‘con​cept al​bum’ pays a per​sonal and orig​i​nal trib​ute to pre-war Jewish life in cen​tral Europe. The Jerusalem Quar​tet has as​sem​bled a well-con​trasted ar​ray of mu​sic: first, Erich Wolf​gang Korn​gold, the Vi​en​nese com​poser who went into ex​ile in Hol​ly​- wood; then Er​win Schul​ho", whose cut​ting-edge ca​reer was trun​cated by the Nazi oc​cu​- pa​tion of Cze​choslo​vakia and ended in a con​cen​tra​tion camp. Fi​nally, so​phis​ti​cated ar​- range​ments by Leonid Desy​at​nikov spe​cially com​mis​sioned for the record​ing cap​ture five Yid​dish cabaret songs from Poland, full of bit​ing irony and sor​row.

The re​sult couldn’t be much bet​ter if it tried. The quar​tet gets un​der Korn​gold’s skin to a splen​did de​gree, pre​sent​ing his 1933 String Quar​tet No. 2 with all the echt-vi​en​nese schwung, vigour, airi​ness and colour that it needs. It’s op​ti​mistic, endlessly imag​i​na​tive mu​sic, and their op​u​lence and va​ri​ety of tone matches the kalei​do​scopic colours of Korn​gold’s char​ac​ter​is​tic ebb and flow.

The Schul​hoff Five Pieces leap to life too, the en​sem​ble catch​ing the ideal bal​ance be​- tween the dance forms on which the suite is mod​elled and the com​poser’s edgy idiom and de​tailed writ​ing.

Hila Bag​gio’s voice proves ideal for the cabaret​fu​sion Desy​at​nikov: light yet strong, with good Yid​dish dic​tion. Along​side her char​ac​ter​ful sto​ry​telling, the quar​tet con​trasts the harsh, dugin sounds of the tango in ‘Varshe’ (War​saw) with the sweet​ness of the vi​o​lin solo over the top. The fi​nal song ul​ti​mately leaves us star​ing with hor​ror and hind​sight into the void as the viola fades into the dis​tance.

Recorded sound qual​ity through​out is warm and clear, beau​ti​fully en​hanc​ing the to​tal im​pres​sion.

Hear ex​tracts from this record​ing and the rest of this month’s choices on the BBC Mu​sic Mag​a​zine web​site at www.clas​si​cal-mu​
The quar​tet gets un​der Korn​gold’s skin to a splen​did de​gree

August 7, 2019

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