Alfred Schnittke CD Review


Alfred Schnittke Z6707
String Quartets No. 2 and No. 3
Piano Quintet (with Gary Graffman)

CD Reviews

Alfred Schnittke: String Quartets Nos. 2 and 3; Piano Quintet
with Gary Graffman, piano
Arabesque Z6707

****As a grittier alternative to Kronos’ Schnittke, the Lark Quartet has also recorded two of the composer’s quartets, the Second and the Third, as well as the eerie, gloom-tinged Piano Quintet. This is a young, fearless ensemble that takes an aggressive approach to contemporary music-the Lark premiered Aaron Jay Kernis’ Pulitzer Prize-winning String Quartet No.2-and its performances here are unlike those of Kronos, but similarly revelatory. Both pieces, as well as the elegiac Piano Quintet, are played with plenty of tonal depth and verve.
San Francisco Chronicle-July 1998

We have the Lark and Kronos String Quartets to thank for new recordings of music by Alfred Schnittke, who died this summer. (The Piano Quintet) is played with poignancy on the Lark Quartet’s recording, a disc that imbues the Quartets Nos. 2 and 3 with lyrical strivings. For the Quintet, Curtis Institute director Gary Graffman makes and agile and thoughtful keyboard guest.
The Philadelphia Inquirer-September 1998

The already impressive list of fine musicians who’ve recorded the music of Alfred Schnittke is extended yet again by this new release from the four women of the Lark Quartet. This dedicated, dynamic ensemble explores the composer’s music in its characteristically elegiac mood. It gets to grips with the popular Third Quartet, explores its less well-known predecessor, and with pianist Gary Graffman delivers a refined reading of the Piano Quintet. The Lark succeeds masterfully.
BBC Music Magazine-October 1998

The all-female Lark Quartet has issued a disc coupling (Schnittke’s) 2nd and 3rd quartets with the piano quintet. The Moscow String Quartet has paired the same quintet with Shostakovich …the Kronos Quartet has taken on all of Schnittke’s chamber work….

The Lark Quartet disc is a hands-down winner on every count. The quartet’s tone is warm and rich, handsomely accommodating Schnittke’s references to tradition. Yet, where coloristic effect is called for, the Lark goes for the throat, rendering each phrase with gripping power and utmost control. The performance of the Quintet is likewise intense…the result is ethereal and powerful in equal measure.
Tucson Citizen-August 1998

The young, American, all-female Lark Quartet have been gathering prizes and critical encomia over the past ten years or so, and these sensitively prepared performances of three of Schnittke’s most memorable chamber pieces shows just why. I’m pretty sure I’ve not heard a better focused or more full-blooded account of the Second Quartet, nor one which held my attention more consistently. In the Third Quartet, where Schnittke distils his existential Angst into a more cogent and moving structure, The Lark have nothing to fear from comparison with the Borodin Quartet…”
Gramophone-October 1998

Coincidental with Schnittke’s death comes the release of several recordings…, among them the Kronos Quartet’s traversal of his chamber works, two new recordings of his Piano Quintet, the Lark Quartet’s rip-snorting account of his String Quartets Nos. 2 and 3 and the Bolshoi Theatre’s spirited recording of his ballet Esquisses. As might be expected, the Kronos traversal of the quartets has a distinct personality to it. The surprise is how much better the Lark Quartet plays the Quartets 2 and 3. The first thing one notices is the richness and warmth of the Lark’s ensemble sound. What comes as such a shock is how much more expressive and colorful the Lark makes each work. From both a sonic and interpretive standpoint, the Lark’s reading of the Piano Quintet outdistances that of the Moscow String Quartet. The Lark, by contrast, lets rip the full range, from the ethereal to the bombastic.
Stereophile-November 1998