The Music Treasury for 25 August 2019 — Quartetto Italiano

by | Aug 25, 2019 | Streams and Podcasts | 0 comments

Dear Friend of The Music Treasury,

The Summer broadcast time of The Music Treasury on KZSU 90.1 FM remains Sunday, from 19:00 – 21:00.  You can also listen online at kzsulive.stanford.edu during the broadcast time.

This week’s show, hosted by Dr Gary Lemco, will feature historic recordings by Quartetto Italiano, from mid 1900s.

Quartetto Italiano at RIAS, 1951-1963

The Quartetto Italiano (English: Italian Quartet) was a string quartet founded in Reggio Emilia in 1945. They made their debut in 1945 in Carpi when all four players were still in their early 20s. They were originally named Nuovo Quartetto Italiano before dropping the “Nuovo” tag in 1951. They are particularly noted for their recording of the complete cycle of Beethoven string quartets, made between 1967 and 1975.

Appearances in Italy, England, Scotland, Spain and France began in 1948, and the group began recording for Decca Records. Concerts rose to over 100 in 1949, with visits to Sweden, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands. At Stockholm Royal Academy, they gave a series of lecture-recitals with Gerda Busoni, widow of Ferruccio Busoni. Another 100 concerts were given in 1950.

In 1951 the Quartet performed in Berlin, and at the Edinburgh Festival and at the Salzburg Festival. At Salzburg they had a long and very influential interview with Wilhelm Furtwängler, who urged them to work towards a much greater freedom of expression that would access for them the world of Grand Romanticism. This was later acknowledged as a critical turning-point for the group. Altogether, the ensemble appeared in Berlin ten times, making their first recordings for RIAS in music of Schubert and Schumann.

In November, 1951 they made their first U.S. tour, which was repeated in approximately alternate years until 1977. Virgil Thomson pronounced them, “The finest string quartet, unquestionably, that our century has known.” In 1953, they transferred their recording program to Columbia Records, and gave 59 concerts in the U.S. and Canada

Recordings included (1954) the Darius Milhaud Quartet No.12, and (1956) the Debussy Quartet, which Robert Kemp described as “miraculous”. The group was then studying the six Mozart Quartets dedicated to Joseph Haydn, and performed them at venues including Milan and Fiesole. Important Festival appearances continued, at Lucerne (1955), the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino (1959), the Prague Spring Festival(1961), and the Berlin Musikwochen. In 1977, NASA launched the two Voyager space probes. Each carried a Golden Record, bearing images and sounds to represent the Earth and mankind. One of the images was a photograph of the Quartetto Italiano.

Through the later 1960s and early 1970s the group toured further afield, to Macedonia (1966), South America (1968), South Africa and Zambia (1970)  Poland, the U.S.S.R., and Japan in 1973. Meanwhile, their recording projects for Philips Records, begun in 1965, were coming to fruition, with the Mozart integrale finished in 1972 and the Beethoven in 1973.

Their collaboration with Maurizio Pollini took place in this later period. The completion of their recording work in Schubert occurred in 1977. In their late concerts, the group focused especially upon Beethoven and Schubert, often devoting a recital to two works, a single masterpiece by each composer. In December 1977 Piero Farulli was obliged to retire from the group owing to illness, and was replaced by Dino Asciolla. However, following a tour to Israel, it was decided in 1980 to bring the Quartet to an end.

Perhaps the strongest, most exacting chamber group post-WWII, Quartetto Italiano represented the Neue Sachlichkeit, the new directness, in quartet playing, their repertory turned as much to the past as to the present. [Adapted from Wikipedia]

Donizetti: String Quartet No. 7 in F Minor                            22:24
Schubert: String Quartet No. 8 in B-flat Major, D. 112         32:34
Schumann: String Quartet in F Major, Op. 41, No. 2           21:32
Malipiero: String Quartet No. 4 (1934)                                 15:11
Haydn: String Quartet in G Major, Op. 77, No. 1                 22:00




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