Candour, ebb and flow give this Cabaret appeal
Jessica Duchen is captivated by the contrasts and creativity found in this sophisticated showpiece
Well suited: the Jerusalem Quartet has style
Korngold: String Quartet No. 2; Schulhoff Five Pieces for String Quartet; Desyatnikov: Yiddish Hila Baggio (soprano); Jerusalem Quartet Harmonia Mundi HMM 902631 59:50 mins This ‘concept album’ pays a personal and original tribute to pre-war Jewish life in central Europe. The Jerusalem Quartet has assembled a well-contrasted array of music: first, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, the Viennese composer who went into exile in Holly- wood; then Erwin Schulho", whose cutting-edge career was truncated by the Nazi occu- pation of Czechoslovakia and ended in a concentration camp. Finally, sophisticated ar- rangements by Leonid Desyatnikov specially commissioned for the recording capture five Yiddish cabaret songs from Poland, full of biting irony and sorrow.
The result couldn’t be much better if it tried. The quartet gets under Korngold’s skin to a splendid degree, presenting his 1933 String Quartet No. 2 with all the echt-viennese schwung, vigour, airiness and colour that it needs. It’s optimistic, endlessly imaginative music, and their opulence and variety of tone matches the kaleidoscopic colours of Korngold’s characteristic ebb and flow.
The Schulhoff Five Pieces leap to life too, the ensemble catching the ideal balance be- tween the dance forms on which the suite is modelled and the composer’s edgy idiom and detailed writing.
Hila Baggio’s voice proves ideal for the cabaretfusion Desyatnikov: light yet strong, with good Yiddish diction. Alongside her characterful storytelling, the quartet contrasts the harsh, dugin sounds of the tango in ‘Varshe’ (Warsaw) with the sweetness of the violin solo over the top. The final song ultimately leaves us staring with horror and hindsight into the void as the viola fades into the distance.
Recorded sound quality throughout is warm and clear, beautifully enhancing the total impression.
Hear extracts from this recording and the rest of this month’s choices on the BBC Music Magazine website at www.classical-music.com
The quartet gets under Korngold’s skin to a splendid degree