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The Notos Quartett's second album is devoted to Brahms: the Piano Quartet, Op 25, and the first recording of an arrangement of his Third Symphony, Op 90.
Brahms was always one of Arnold Schoenberg's most important lodestars. The latter expressed his admiration for the great late Romantic composer by orchestrating Brahms' first Piano Quartet in G minor, Op 25, jokingly describing the result as Brahms' 'Fifth Symphony'. The Notos Quartett's new Brahms album for Sony Classical is subtitled 'The Schoenberg Effect' and picks up this musical tradition, with the four musicians juxtaposing the Piano Quartet with an arrangement of the Third Symphony in F, Op 90, which has been specially prepared for them by Andreas N Tarkmann. The prize-winning Notos Quartett's debut album, Hungarian Treasures, likewise featured a first recording in the form of Bartók's Piano Quartet in C minor, Op 20.
In his own arrangement, Schoenberg had demonstrated the orchestral character of Brahms' chamber music, whereas the Notos Quartett, which was formed in 2007, now adopts the converse approach: 'We would like to demonstrate the extent to which Brahms' Third Symphony is based upon his understanding of chamber music', the members of the Notos Quartett explain. 'That is why we have made this piece our own in a version for piano quartet. Structures are suddenly revealed that have never been heard before and that encourage us to hear this piece in an entirely new and impassioned way as a symbiosis of a bed of symphonic sound and chamber-like clarity that affords proof of Brahms' tremendous mastery as a composer.'
The Op 25 Piano Quartet was first heard in Hamburg on 16 November 1861, with the composer's close friend Clara Schumann as pianist. Today it is numbered alongside Brahms' two other piano quartets as one of the finest examples of the genre. Normally critical to a fault, Clara was immediately bowled over by the Third Symphony when Brahms completed it over two decades later: 'What a work, what poetry, what a harmonious atmosphere permeating the whole work, all the movements as if cast from a single mould, a single heartbeat, every movement a jewel'.
Andreas N Tarkmann, whose arrangements have garnered international acclaim, has prepared a version of the Third Symphony in F, Op 90, specially for the Notos Quartett. 'Every successful arrangement is distinguished by the fact that it does not give the impression of being an arrangement but appears perfectly suited to the new forces for which it is scored, in this case a piano quartet', Tarkmann observes. 'Only then can it break free from its orchestral origins and allow the new arrangement to be perceived by performers and listeners alike as valuable independent work, rather than as the reduction of an orchestral composition that continues to be heard and judged only in comparison to the original. I hope that we – the members of the Notos Quartett and I myself in my function as the arranger – have achieved this goal with Brahms' 'Fourth Piano Quartet'.
The present recording is a co-production between Deutschlandfunk Kultur and Sony Classical.
The album, catalogue number 19439848002, will be released on 19 March 2021.
Regarded as one of the 'outstanding chamber music formations of our time' (Fono Forum, September 2017), Berlin's Notos Quartett was founded in 2007 and has won six first prizes and numerous special prizes at international competitions in England, Holland, Italy and China. In 2017 the quartet was awarded the ECHO Klassik 'newcomer of the year', a prize only rarely given to ensembles.
The following year saw the quartet make history by returning its ECHO award in protest at the ECHO Pop committee's decision to honour an album containing antisemitic and inhumane language. When other musicians, including Daniel Barenboim and Igor Levit followed suit, the German music industry abolished the ECHO brand completely.
The members of the Notos Quartett are Sindri Lederer, violin, Andrea Burger, viola, Philip Graham, cello and Antonia Köster, piano.
Posted 11 March 2021
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