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DAVID WILKINS listens to Goldmark chamber music



Record Box


Goldmark. Copyright (c) ASV Ltd.Most of us know rather little of the music of Karl Goldmark. There is a very elegant and tuneful Violin Concerto but even the once popular Rustic Wedding Symphony gets few outings these days. ASV, however, are to be commended for doing their bit on the composer's behalf as this new recording of two early chamber works is the third devoted to the composer from that company.

Goldmark lived from 1830 to 1915 and, at one time, was regarded as amongst the foremost Austro - Hungarian composers. Reputations, of course, wax and wane. A tempered assessment might say that he is currently as unjustifiably neglected as he was once over-praised. The influence of Mendelssohn is never very distant and hints of Schumann and Dvorak are frequently discernible. He does, however, have an individual and undeniable melodic gift and (having been an accomplished violinist himself) a definite gift for idiomatic string writing.

The opening movement of the String Quartet quickly establishes the pluses and the drawbacks. The material is charming with well sung melodic lines but, in its development, becomes rather diffuse. In the last resort, it remains enjoyable but hardly very memorable. The slow movement is a much better proposition. Though hardly extending its tunefulness with the skill of a Brahms, it does become cumulatively moving in its tenderness and is played with great affection. The short Scherzo is very Mendelssohnian indeed and might, therefore have been played with a tad more gossamer lightness. There is, though, a lovely control of hairpin dynamics in the Fourth Dimension's execution. The finale gives the impression that it's probably a lot more involving to play than to listen to very frequently but it does have some exuberant sequential passages.

The Quintet - like Schubert's - adds a second cello and, again, boasts a slow movement of considerable lyrical pathos. There are Bohemian suggestions aplenty in the opening Allegro which is played with lots of dramatic bite and with the ASV engineers (as throughout) delivering an excellent fulness of sound. At nearly thirteen minutes, it slightly outstays its welcome. Not so the short Scherzo in A Major which is a memorable (if, perhaps, rather tame) folk dance. You might want to ignore the booklet tosh about a 'battle between forces of darkness and light' and simply enjoy the finale for the vigorous and engaging pleasure that it is.

This is the debut recording of the Fourth Dimension String Quartet. How refreshing to find a new ensemble that doesn't feel it's ready to record late Beethoven straight away! They play with genuine freshness and do this less-than-first-rate but very worthwhile music more than proud. I look forward to hearing them in something more substantial. On this evidence the thought of their Dvorák, Smetana, Janácek or perhaps even Elgar seems like a tantalising prospect for the future.


Copyright © 1 March 2000 David Wilkins, East Sussex, UK



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Record Box is Music & Vision's regular Wednesday series of shorter CD reviews