Tippett Quartet Excel with Erich Korngold

The Tippett Quartet plays the three string quartets of Erich Wolfgang Korngold. The quartets trace Korngold’s development as a composer. 

The first, written in 1923, shows Korngold, the modernist. Though he never pushed the envelope as far as Schoenberg, Korngold tests the limits of tonality with this work. The work seems a bundle of restless energy, especially as played by the Tippett Quartet. 

The second quartet, written a decade later is quite different. Kornold’s tonal language is more settled. And his melodies are smoother and more lyrical. 

Two years later Korngold would begin his successful career as a Hollywood composer. This music presages the lyrical scores he would produce.

Korngold’s final string quartet was composed in 1945. Two years later Korngold would retire from film music, and return to composing concert music. As with his second quartet, this work anticipates that change. 

The quartet is the most complex of the three. The harmonic language ranges farther than the second, moving into modality. The melodies are highly chromatic, flirting with atonality in places. And yet everything is tightly constructed. This is music written by a musician for musicians (although audiences are welcome, too). 

The Tippett Quartet plays with precision and sensitivity. When Korngold’s music becomes lyrical, the quartet’s playing sings. When the music becomes thorny, the quartet embraces the dissonance. 

These are fine performances of music still waiting for its due. Recommended.

Erich Wolfgang Korngold: String Quartets Nos. 1-3
Tippett Quartet

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