Hartmann: String Quartets
Airis String Quartet
Karl Amadeus Hartmann’s work is very difficult to attribute to any particular compositional school. Although he was not a revolutionist in terms of notation or performance forces, he was able to creatively subordinate all the achievements of modern musical language to innovative formal approaches. Hartmann wrote with extraordinary verve, creating artistic phrases with a broad ambitus, at the same time he could masterfully juggle short motifs, subjecting them to elaborate variational and contrapuntal transformations. In terms of harmonics, Hartmann’s music is tonal, though strongly chromatic, which deprives the listener of a secure sense of anchoring in a specific key. The composer did not shy away from strongly dissonant sounds, sometimes close to clusters. Sound beauty in purely aesthetic terms was not his priority. He created music in the service of truth, uncompromising and authentic. String Quartet No. 1 ‘Carillon’, dedicated to Hermann Scherchen, was awarded the first prize in the composition competition in Geneva in 1935. The first movement of String Quartet No. 1 opens with the famous Jewish melody Eliyahu Hanavi. The quartet contains numerous elements inspired by folk music. The contrasting second movement has a quasi religioso character. The third movement is very lively and energetic, and the glissando dialogue between the viola and cello against the background of semiquaver tremolo in the violin brings to mind the sounds of sirens alarming about the upcoming bombardment. String Quartet No. 2 was dedicated to Hartmann’s wife Elisabeth. The work written just after the end of the war is full of images and memories from the time of terror. In terms of technique and expression, it is definitely a more mature composition. Alongside from Karl Amadeus Hartmann’s string quartets, the album features a small piece Langsamer Satz by Anton Webern. This unusually beautiful work full of sophisticated sounds comes from the period when Webern still wrote tonal music, before becoming one of the fathers of dodecaphony. It reflects the soul of a 21-year-old man in love, his gusts of heart, euphoria and melancholy.