Zillacus Quartet Present Collaborative Masterworks

This is a fascinating release of interconnected composers. Edvard Grieg was a close family friend of the Rontgens — Julius and his wife Amanda Maier. Rontgen would eventually publish a biography of his friend in 1930. And he did more than that.

Grieg had started a string quartet in 1891 and set it aside. He had completed only the first two movements. Rontgen. Rontgen composed two final movements based on Grieg’s notes and sketches. 

The completed quartet was performed in the Rontgen home with an all-star lineup. Harold Bauer played the first violin. Pablo Casals played the second violin and his wife played the cello. Julius Rontgen played the viola. His second wife, Abrahamina, was the sole audience member. 

The Grieg/Rontgen quartet was then put aside. It receives its world recording premiere here.

Rontgen’s first wife, Amanda Maier was an accomplished violinist and a skilled composer. Her early death at age 41 left her own string quartet unfinished. It would remain so until 2018.  That’s when Swedish conductor and composer Bengt Tommy Andersson completed it.

Rounding out the release is Rontgen’s own work, his String Quartet No. 12.

Violinist Cecilia Zilliacus has recorded several of Maier’s works. And she’s specialized in Scandinavian string music. She has a deep understanding of this music.

And that understanding comes through in this recording. The Zilliacus Quartet has a warm, clear ensemble sound. They bring out the emotional content of this music, but never to excess. 

Instead, we’re treated to some exciting, well-executed quartet playing. And that playing breathes life into these works. The origins of the music don’t matter. The Grieg/Rontgen and Maier/Andersson quartets sound like seamless and organic masterpieces.

The Zillacus Quartet
Grieg, Maier, Rontgen: String Quartets
DB Productions

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