What becomes of a one-hit wonder when their hit drops off the charts? Oblivion. That’s sort of what happened to Arnold Krug.
A contemporary of Brahms, Krug won the Stelzner Competition for chamber music in 1896. Instrument builder Alfred Stelzner had created two new stringed instruments, a violetta (midway between a viola and cello), and cellone (between a cello and double bass). Stelzner hoped to generate music for these instruments through his composition contest.
Krug won for his violin, viola, violetta, cello, cellone, and double bass sextet. Fortunately, it was published with more conventional instrumentation: two violins, two violas, cello, and double bass. Stelzner’s instruments never caught on.
The “Prize Sextet” did, though. It was Krug’s most-performed work. Melodies are lyrical and memorable. Krug skillfully manipulates and develops his themes, creating movements that logically unfold from start to finish.
The entire work has a thematic cohesiveness that’s quite appealing. And so it was, up until the 1930s, when the Prize Sextet faded from the repertoire.
The Linos Ensemble makes a strong case for its reinstatement. Their sympathetic reading brings out the inherent beauty of the work. Krug was no Brahms, but in this sextet, he comes pretty close.
Also included is the Op. 16 Piano Quintet. Krug completed the work when he was just 29. It’s full of youthful energy. And while the music isn’t as memorable as that of the Prize Sextet, it’s still thoroughly enjoyable.
In the hands of the Linos Ensemble, Arnold Krug’s Prize Sextet comes up a winner.
Arnold Krug: String Sextet, Op. 68; Piano Quartet, Op. 16
CPO 555 030-2