Tomas Cotik, violin
Keith Redpath, violin
Jennifer Snyder Kozoroz, viola
JAMES DUNHAM, guest violist
Emmanuel Lopez, cello
Centaur Records releases an album with Mendelssohn string quintets recorded by the Harrington String Quartet in 2009 (Tomas Cotik, first violin; Keith Redpath, second violin; Jennifer Kozoroz, viola; Emmanuel Lopez, cello), with guest violist James Dunham, from the legendary Cleveland Quartet, and a Grammy Award-winning team: producer Blanton Alspaugh and sound engineer John Newton. The CD includes Mendelssohn’s String Quintets No.1 in A Major, Op. 18 and No.2 in B-flat Major, as well as the Capriccio for String Quartet Op. 81.
Mendelssohn String Quintet in A Major op. 18
Mendelssohn String Quintet in A Major op. 18 At the Mendelssohn home, performing chamber music was an integral part of its ethos. In the 1820’s, the family established a tradition of Sunday afternoon musicales where all the Mendelssohn children were featured as performers. These were also among the most important social events in the cultural life of Berlin. It was not unusual for musical and literary luminaries of the day, such as Karl Maria von Weber, Ludwig Spohr, Heinrich Heine and E. T. A. Hoffman, to be invited to the Mendelssohn’s for an afternoon of music. At these soirees, they all expressed admiration for young Felix’s musical genius and were treated to some of his most notable early compositions. Mendelssohn composed his A major String Quintet Op. 18 in 1826, the same year that also saw the composition of his Octet Op. 20 and the Overture to A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Following the tradition established by Mozart, Mendelssohn used the same instrument combination by adding an extra viola to the string quartet format. The work went through significant changes prior to being published in 1832.
Mendelssohn String Quintet in B flat Major Op. 87
Nineteen years would pass before Mendelssohn composed his second string quintet. By this time, he has become one of the most famous composers in Europe. He has written the bulk of his string quartet oeuvre as well as the “Scottish” and “Italian” symphonies and several volumes of “Songs without Words”, to name a few. His performances in Europe have brought him legendary status as one of the finest virtuoso pianists of the age. As conductor, his prestige has grown ever since his revival of Bach’s St. Mathew Passion in Berlin in 1829. He has traveled to England several times to perform and conduct. He has met Robert and Clara Schumann and developed a meaningful friendship and professional relationship with them. In 1843, Robert Schumann assisted him in establishing the Leipzig Conservatory developing a curriculum of studies worthy of the most prestigious academies
in Europe. He has married Cécile Jeanrenaud, and has begun to raise a family. Composed in 1845, the B flat quintet is among the finest of his chamber works. Although its conception is texturally more orchestral than the A Major, it retains similar formal and structural qualities as its predecessor.
Harrington String Quartet
A gem in the cultural landscape of West Texas, the Harrington String Quartet was established by a generous gift from the late Sybil B. Harrington to benefit the Texas Panhandle community. From its founding in 1981, the quartet has brought “stellar credentials” and “a refined sense of ensemble and musical integrity” to performances across the nation and internationally. During the summer of 2014, the quartet toured Europe as performing guests at the International Music Festival of Toledo (Spain), Altmark Festspiele (Germany), and the International Music Festival of the Adriatic (Italy). Upon returning to the USA, they were featured as Distinguished Guest Artists at the Piano Texas Festival in Fort Worth, TX. Highlights from past seasons include a New York debut in Carnegie’s Weill Hall and the PBS documentary A Sound Collaboration – The Harrington String Quartet. The quartet has also enjoyed collaborations with world-renowned artists David Shifrin, Pepe Romero, James Dick, William Preucil, James Dunham, Robert Levin, Alon Goldstein, Guy Yehuda, Arthur Rowe, and members of the Cavani, Miró, and Pro Arte String Quartets. For over thirty years, the quartet has delighted audiences with their finely blended sound and heart-felt interpretations of a wide spectrum of repertoire, which ranges from Bach and Purcell to Bartok and Crumb. Harrington String Quartet’s collaborative recording with the Phoenix Chorale, Northern Lights, was distinguished as iTunes’s Best Classical Vocal Album of 2012. In 2005, the quartet also released a Grammy nominated album of works by American composer Daniel McCarthy. The Harrington String Quartet is in residence as string faculty at West Texas A&M University.
James Dunham’s rich background includes having been violist of the Grammy Award–winning Cleveland Quartet and the Naumburg Award-winning Sequoia Quartet. He frequently collaborates with the American, Jupiter, Pacifica, Takács, and Ying Quartets and is currently violist of the Axelrod Quartet, in residence at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. This past season he performed in Seoul Korea and returned to the jury of the Osaka International Chamber Music competition. An advocate of new music, Mr. Dunham has premiered and recorded Libby Larsen’s Viola Sonata (2001) and Sifting Through the Ruins (2005) for viola, mezzo-soprano (Susanne Mentzer) and piano. With the Diotima Quartet of France he recently premiered Richard Lavenda’s Viola Quintet, and his justreleased recording of Judith Shatin’s Glyph, for solo viola and piano quintet, has received rave reviews. The Cleveland Quartet’s Telarc recording of John Corigliano’s String Quartet, written for their final tour, won the 1996 Grammy for Best Chamber Music Performance. Currently Professor of Viola at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music, Mr. Dunham formerly taught at the New England Conservatory and the Eastman School of Music. During the summer he teaches and performs at numerous festivals, including the Aspen Music Festival and School, Sarasota, La Jolla, Amelia.
Harrington String Quartet & James Dunham
Recorded on May 17-19, 2009 at the Globe-News Center, Amarillo, Texas. Produced by Blanton Alspaugh. Engineered by John Newton.
String Quintet No.1, Op.18
1. Allegro con moto
2. Intermezzo. Andante sostenuto
3. Scherzo. Allegro di molto
4. Allegro vivace
String Quintet No.2, Op.87
4. Allegro vivace
5. Andante scherzando
6. Adagio e lento
7. Allegro molto vivace
Capriccio in E minor Op. 81 No 3
9. Andante con moto (E minor), Op.81
Recorded on May 17-19, 2009 at the Globe-News Center, Amarillo, Texas. Produced by Blanton Alspaugh. Engineered by John Newton.
“Everyone who plays these works should hear these exemplary performances...you will never hear these Telemann Fantasias played so well ”
“un trabajo de mucha calidad, por la originalidad de los arreglos y especialmente porque se trata de un excelente instrumentista”
“un violinista excelente... que recoge una forma rigurosa, natural y fuera de lo común de entender e interpretar la música”
“A neglected stash of unrecorded Schubert”
“If you love the solo violin, you won't find a better recording to suit your tastes”
“None of these pieces has ever sounded quite like this before.”
“The Piazzolla album is not just Cotik as brilliant interpreter, but also as creative mind.”
“The BBC Music team’s current favourites”
“This is an excellent recital. I enjoy the Piazzolla Tango Etudes more as played by Cotik than by anyone else. ”
“their lofty musicianship dwarfs their profound scholarship”
“intelligent and sensitive...glories in...colorations and shared emphasis”
“Cotik makes Kreisler seem almost smarmy, Isabelle Faust almost mannered, and Julia Fischer as though she's filed down the detail”
“should leave listeners almost breathless…a vibrancy and attention to detail...strong individuality and… vitality”
“a musician who prepares thoroughly and has great respect for the music he performs”
“this is one of the great Piazzolla discs, and in perfect sound quality, I urge you to buy it.”
“true treasure...one of the latest gems to emerge from the season”
“this is clearly a team to watch. I am sure we will be hearing good things from them in the future”
“an exemplary presentation of some marvelous music”
“Evocative concert of Jewish classical music”
“outstanding from the very beginning”
“My first chamber choice for the year. ”
“Cotik and Tao Lin have…honored not only their professions as musicians, but the memory and work of Franz Schubert”
“Un disco revelador de la maestría de los jóvenes intérpretes que lo firman: Tomas Cotik y Tao Lin.”
“Cotik phrases this music with such feeling, making you wonder if it could possibly sound better in any other performance.”
“I marvel at the technical skill which effortlessly encompasses these deeply contrasting styles....a technical as well as expressive master stroke”
“clarity and tonal opulence rare in recordings of violin music”
“un disco la cui qualità riesce a proporre la freschezza affascinante della cultura musicale germanica come nuova, come se non si fossero mai ascoltate prima”
“excellent violin playing...extremely enjoyable interpretations of music that I love”
“The technical qualities of the recording - which is on the NAXOS label, by the way - are excellent.”
“wonderful album…impressive for the elegance and sensitivity of the interpretations”
“I’ve had a listen to a few alternatives…including Isaac Stern with Daniel Baremboim and Lydia Mordkovitch, but this duo pretty much ticks all the boxes”
“bemerkenswert, kunstvolle und expressive Interpretationen...auf hohem Niveau und den jeweiligen Stilen perfekt angepasst”
“excellent style, which is not frequently found”
“there is no question that this disc is, by some distance, Naxos's best Piazzolla recording ”
“laudable level of technical accuracy…tenderness and warmth”
“una nueva forma de mirar, entender y percibir la música de diferentes épocas”
“this superbly produced Schubert disc…comes warmly commended”
“among the very best Piazzolla albums”
“I was immediately impressed by their virtuosity and also their understanding of Piazzolla’s music. I was anxious to see them perform in person”
“I highly commend Mr. Cotik for his innovative interpretations and I hope many future audiences will experience his musical excellence”
“violinist Tomas Cotik is always up for a new challenge”
“conviction, commitment, diplomacy, and character”
“brilliant Argentinean violinist”
“None of these pieces has ever sounded quite like this before....Cotik handles it beautifully, with tremendous clarity of line and evenness of tone”
“Overall, these two discs featuring Cotik must be regarded as among the finest performances for their consistent artistry and idiomatic grasp”
“exceptional...Piazzolla can be played differently than this, but provably not better.”
“I find the Cotik and Lin performances most interesting and the sound on their disc is excellent”
“recreating the visceral charge of Piazzolla’s legendary quintet concerts and recordings”
“unusual depth and broad compass...absolutely brilliant... unmistakable vitality...optimally recorded”
“absolutely impeccable, with intonation in the centre of every note, and his left hand flying around the fingerboard with remarkable agility”
“Cotik transcends even the profoundly meditative”
“Las versiones son óptimas por la compenetración estilística del dúo y la prestancia instrumental del admirable violinista”
“Hace muy poco descubrí esta maravilla...dos extraordinarios instrumentalistas que uniendo su talento logran...algo genial.”
“Some of the music is sultry while other works are fast, rhythmic, and ornamented to show the exquisite virtuosity of Cotik”
“Cotik vanta un violinismo costantemente brillante e un colore di suono caldo e avvolgente”
“an excellent violinist”
“a treat from start to finish”
The Harrington Quartet (Tomás Cotik & Keith Redpath, violins; Jennifer Kozoroz, viola; Emmanuel Lopez, cello), along with violist James Dunham, are right on target in each piece. I can't imagine a significantly finer performance of either quintet: in their hands this mostly light and buoyant music effervesces with spirit and energy, and with vivid color and infectious joy. Their attacks are clean and precise, their intonation flawless and gorgeous, and their tempos and phrasing well-judged and sensitive. In short, they perform as one musical body, collectively striking you as master musicians who've played together for many years... Once again, the performance is splendid... this disc is a must for Mendelssohn mavens, as well as for aficionados of 19th century chamber music... So you have two thumbs up on this splendid Centaur disc.
These performances are surprisingly good. The players bring a feeling of youthful freshness, even innocence, to the first of the two quintets, investing Mendelssohn’s score with a great deal of charm. The Harrington String Quartet, partnered by violist James Dunham in the quintets, demonstrates the highest degree of technical skill in executing Mendelssohn’s fleet, nimble-fingered movements, while cultivating a warm-hearted and caring approach to the slower lyrical movements…the Harrington String Quartet on this fine-sounding Centaur CD is easily recommended.
This is a wonderfully relaxing recording. Imagine you're a string player, and you've invited friends over to the house to play chamber music. A glass or two of wine, and we pull out some Mendelssohn. This recording documents
the way the music would sound (at least in my imagination). Tempos are very relaxed, the string sound is warm and gorgeous, play ers yield to each other in cooperative, musical fashion, and the world seems a better place. In
short this is a great recording if you value warmth and sweetness in Mendelssohn. I greatly enjoyed the Mandelring (I/F 2016), but putting them side by side now, I think my choice would be the Harrington, who allow the music to unfold without being pressed or "energized". Here, though, nothing is forced, and, as I say, the world seems a better place. So, congratulations to the Harrington.
The performance is tautly disciplined. The focus of the music is always spot-on. The tone quality of each instrument is solid. It is a rare combination to hear a performance this controlled which doesn't sound in any way robotic, but which is emotionally moving. Listening to the recording is joyous.
Robert W. Plyler
Mendelssohn, how it's supposed to sound! Musically this is an impressive achievement. The playing is both idiomatic and technically impeccable, never rushed and therefore unforcedly charming in the first quintet, while the second gets a good measure of expression."
Mendelssohn, wie er klingen soll!...Auf dieser CD sorgfältig erarbeiteten Interpretation zu hören...wachen Dialog der Musiker und den warmen Klang überzeugt, der unverkennbar ‘Mendelssohn’ ist.... Eindruck eines Ensembles, das nicht auf Effekte setzt, um Wirkung zu erzeugen, sondern die Musik von innen heraus erstrahlen lässt, gefühlvoll... mit einer romantisch verbrämten mozartschen Eleganz.
...thrill audiences with the exuberance of their playing....The results are simpy wonderful... There is lightness and economy of purpose in the first violin’s melody, grounded by quarter-notes in the lower strings... The first violin takes charge of the adventuresome theme in the opening movement, its forte dynamics supported by ominous tremolos in the lower strings. The brief scherzo is made more attractive by superb fluidity and pace, enhanced by elegant pizzicati. Mendelssohn has been criticized, perhaps unfairly, for his conservative musical style. He saw no need to jettison the conventions we now term “classical” and attract attention to his music by indulging in “revolutionary” novelty à la Berlioz, and Wagner. Was he right in doing so? Certainly, he was a composer whose grasp was exactly equal to his reach, and the result can be very satisfying, especially in his memorable pictorial and expressive effects. Today, uninspired performances can make his music seem stodgy. Great ones, like the Harrington Quartet and Dunham give us in these recordings, bring out the lithesomeness, vitality, and unexpected depths of emotion that make his best music ever more revelant in today’s nervous world.