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Schönberg / Strauss / Komarova / Danzmayr/ Bartok

Cologne String Sextet

RAUMKLANG: CMN 008 (UK distributor CODA)

A unique disc which gradually casts a spell.

The label introduces it thus: "- - Transfigured Night initially shocked Schoenberg’s contemporaries; today it numbers among Arnold Schoenberg’s most popular works. In its own musically sagacious manner, the Cologne String Sextet (Kölner Streichsextett) has devoted its third recording for RAUMKLANG (marc aurel edition) also to works by Richard Strauss and Béla Bartók, as well as to two contemporary works commissioned by the ensemble and an archaic pavane published in 1639 by Andreas Hammerschmidt."

They do not mention Tatjana Komarova [pictured]. It was her Sextet "for ever and eternity?" (2005) which had caught my eye, after positive experiences of music by this composer and prompted me to request this new CD for review.

I had heard some of Komarova's piano music played by her husband Lars Vogt, and in the Belcea Quartet gave her string quartet (Lucerne 2002) - - a welcome addition to their repertoire, a satisfying 10 movement quartet, each one an aphoristic jewel which brought to mind those of Webern and Kurtag, but without resorting to extended techniques nor, be it said, an idiom far in advance of Bartok's at the beginning of his cycle. The last two were linked to make a more extended finale and this was a successful commissioned premiere which other quartets will want to take up. - -

This newer work explores in instrumental terms, and with subtle, questing sensitivity, areas of human experience, "What do we expect from life and from love? - - how does one endure the pain of separation?" with musical equivalents of the question marks, and I look forward to hearing it again.

Danzmayr's Isolde, for example made little impression initially, so I must give it a second try.

The two 'canonic' works in the string sextet repertoire are given loving, involving performance which draw you in, and all in all this adds up to a notable CD, with a tiny encore, Bartok's favourite From the diary of a fly from Mikrokosmos, wittily transcribed for six strings. Recommended.

Peter Grahame Woolf