Ragazze Quartet – Schulhoff, Dvorak: Cesko (2015) [FLAC 24bit/44,1kHz]

Schulhoff, Dvorak – Cesko – Ragazze Quartet (2015)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/44,1 kHz  | Time – 01:05:04 minutes | 588 MB | Genre: Classical
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download – Source: channelclassics.com | Booklet, Front Cover | © Channel Classics Records
Recorded: December 2014, Doopsgezinde Kerk Deventer, The Netherlands

On Česko we go on a musical journey across Europe to the extraordinary land of Bohemia (popularly known as Česko, but officially means Czech), the homeland of two composers we have come to love so much. It doesn’t seem to matter that we hardly know their country: the indescribable energy of the music, with its folk melodies and harmonies, revealing the essence of a nation steeped in a deep cultural history, takes us there instantly. These composers are the much celebrated and revered Antonín Dvořák, along with the younger and lesser-known Erwin Schulhoff, whose life and career was tragically cut short by the Nazi regime. Both were masters in harnessing the old to the new, fusing a rich musical heritage with the influence of new worlds. Their works take us through the full range of emotions, from the tranquil to the fiery, from the elated to the melancholic. A reflection of human life.

The primary reason to care about this recording is the presence of two Erwin Schulhoff works: the tempest in a teapot Quartet No. 1 and the clever, expert, and stylistically facile Esquisses de Jazz, its original piano version arranged here for string quartet by Dutch composer Leonard Evers.
Is there a string quartet that begins with more explosive energy than Schulhoff’s First, from 1924? There are more compelling and masterfully developed ideas in this surprisingly compact quartet than you will find in the complete works of some other composers–the third (Allegro giocoso alla slovaca) and last (Andante molto sostenuto) movements in particular are full of technical, textural, thematic, and harmonic invention that sounds as modern (in the best, most agreeable sense) as anything you will hear today. We can only speculate what this composer would have achieved had he not died in 1942 at the hands of the Nazis at age 48.
The set of six jazz pieces–with titles such as “Rag”, “Tango”, “Blues”, and “Charleston”–is so adroitly written, and performed here with such assured, sexy, sassy, stylish authority by the four ragazze (an Italian word for “girls”), that you will likely press the repeat button more than a time or two to savor an arrangement that arguably is even more engaging than the original piano version.
The performance of the Dvorák Op. 106, a quartet that has justifiably received a multitude of excellent recordings (see our reviews archive), is as good as you will find on Supraphon (Pavel Haas), Cedille (Pacifica), or RCA (Guarneri), the energy, tack-sharp articulation, and just plain finesse and fire in the playing is enough to keep you interested and undistracted by even the most compelling iPhone Siren-call or the jingle-jangle lure of text or tweet. Turn off all devices; sit back and listen, and be pleasantly reminded of the joy of pure music, embodied by this recording, with its sensual, scintillating sound and enlivening performances. –ClassicsToday.com


Erwin Schulhoff (1894-1942)
String Quartet No. 1
1. Presto con fuoco 2:24
2. Allegretto con moto e con malinconia grotesca 3:32
3. Allegro giocoso alla slovaca 3:01
4. Andante molto sostenuto 6:49

Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904)
String Quartet No. 13 in G major, Op. 106
5. Allegro moderato 9:20
6. Adagio ma non troppo 10:39
7. Molto vivace 6:13
8. Finale: Andante sostenuto – Allegro con fuoco 10:52

Erwin Schulhoff (1894-1942)
Esquisses de Jazz
9. Rag 2:06
10. Boston 2:54
11. Tango 1:55
12. Blues 1:53
13. Black Bottom 1:55
14. Charleston 1:24

Ragazze String Quartet
Rosa Arnold, violin
Jeanita Vriens, violin
Annemijn Bergkotte, viola
Kirsten Jenson, cello