Now available in discrete multi-channel surround SACD before the CD release on July 22nd!
Telarc releases the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of Charles Rosekrans performing Schubert's Death and the Maiden (Mahler transcription) and Dvorák's American Quartet scored for string orchestra.
Dvorák composed his String Quartet in F Major just three days after he arrived in Iowa from his long journey from New York City. He finished the sketches in an astonishing 72 hours, and the work was completed and orchestrated within a staggering 15 days.
It was common practice around the turn of the twentieth century for conductors to alter established classical works to better suit the temper of the times. Mahler obtained a score Schubert's well-known Quartet in D minor, Death and the Maiden, and made detailed notes therein indicating how the music could be disposed for string orchestra. After he was criticized for depriving Schubert's beloved music of its intimacy, Mahler abandoned plans for a complete performance. Long after his death, Mahler's daughter, Anna, discovered the marked-up Schubert score and brought it to the attention of Mahler scholars David Matthews and Donald Mitchell, who extracted the orchestral parts according to the composer-conductor's notations and published the score in 1984.
Schubert's D minor String Quartet, composed in 1824, begins with a bold gesture founded upon a pregnant triplet-rhythm motive. This opening motive is whipped into a considerable frenzy before the music quiets, pauses on two chords surrounded by silence, and then launches into the subsidiary subject, a lilting violin duet of contrasting lyrical quality. The development section is a compact and closely worked contrapuntal elaboration of the second theme. A rising wave of expressive tension leads without pause to the recapitulation. The work's title—"Death and the Maiden"—derives from the source of the theme of its second movement, a song that Schubert composed on a poem of that title by Matthias Claudius. The song begins with a soft introduction depicting the solemn tread of death, continues with the maiden's music of panic and fear, and ends with the words of death set to the strains of the introduction. It is from the opening and closing sections of the song that Schubert borrowed the theme for the third movement, which he worked as a set of five variations. The Scherzo, with its unsettling rhythmic syncopations and restless expression, reinstates the defiant mood of the first movement. Its main theme is bursting with tension and barely contained energy. The finale, a feverish tarantella, combines formal elements of rondo and sonata.
A shimmering halo of string sound opens Dvorák's "American" Quartet and serves as the cushion for the presentation of the movement's folk-like main subject. A cloud of darker emotion draws briefly across the music for the presentation of the complementary subject, but the mood brightens again for the closing theme, a delightful melody, as sweet as a lullaby. The development concerns itself first with permutations of the main subject and then with an imitative treatment of a motive derived from the dark-hued complementary theme. The full recapitulation of the earlier themes brings balance, formal closure, and complete fulfillment to this most satisfying movement. The Lento's beautiful main theme is both calm and melancholy, touched perhaps in equal amounts by the composer's own homesickness and by the poignant expressions of heartache that he admired in the spirituals he had learned in New York from his student Henry Thacker Burleigh. The song soars higher, and the mood becomes brighter as the movement progresses, but the plaintive tone of the opening again settles upon the music as it reaches its closing measures. The vivacious third movement is built from two contrasting strains of music, one lively and dance-like, the other more lyrical and mysterious. The finale is a rondo built on a dashing folk-dance melody.