Classical review: Zehetmair Quartet, Beethoven/Bruckner/Hartmann/Holliger (ECM)


Four mighty landmarks in 180 years of string quartet writing start with Beethoven’s late Op 135 of 1826 followed by a Bruckner rarity, his C minor “student” composition written in 1862 at the age of 38 when the master of choral and organ music was learning orchestration.

Hartmann’s 1945 Quartet  No 2, based on the notes F-E-G-H (B flat), a reference to the Vegh Quartett who gave it its first performance, is an abrasive response to the Second World War, evoking Shostakovich’s heartfelt dissonances. Heinz Holliger’s String Quartet  No 2, dedicated to Elliott Carter and written for the Zehetmair, applies a thin layer of vocal keening to a mysterious soundworld and ends this stupendous musical journey, skilfully navigated.