"It's gorgeous stuff... all the more reason to admire this achievement"
"Warm colours, rich enveloping sonority"
"I might as well admit that the album sounds phenomenal"
"They maintain the same level of quality [...] despite how devilishly difficult it is"
"Alma Quartet is not shy of color and atmosphere"
"The musicians know how to interpret [...] this music in a compelling way"
"There's inventiveness and a sense of adventure in these burnished performances"
It was in March 2020, when the world had ground to a standstill, that this recording of Korngold’s complete quartets found its inception. As all our artistic activities had come to an abrupt halt and with no real prospects for the future, we went from being stage musicians to music lovers in our living rooms. Yet this difficult interval gave us a chance to discover new repertoire and to take time to meet new performers and composers, who would come to visit us during this long period. Erich Wolfgang Korngold soon became a friend and a regular guest in our home whose name inspired hope for a better future. Scattered across Amsterdam, we would have to wait several months before being able to rehearse together again, the first notes of Korngold’s quartets coming to life under our bows.
We entered this music with open arms, proceeding backwards from Korngold’s mature works darkened by the 1930s and 40s, which he spent in the United States. While opportunities to perform onstage for live audiences were rare that following year, we decided to record the last two quartets direct to disc. As we recorded, we felt like tightrope walkers several metres above the ground without a net. That feeling of vertigo was what we had been missing while all our concerts were being cancelled. The recording was an opportunity to push our boundaries in the hope of touching audiences we could only imagine – on the other side of the vinyl.
This second opus represents a return to Korngold’s roots, an attempt to rediscover the innocence and enormous artistic fertility that characterised the young composer. His first quartet and his piano quintet attest to an unbelievable talent and a visionary spirit rooted in the musical ferment of Vienna at the beginning of the twentieth century. These two works in particular struck a chord with us in March 2020 when we were unable to play together. So here we are today, on 30 October 2023, the last notes of the quintet still ringing here in the studio. Beyond the fatigue one inevitably feels upon finishing a recording, we are suddenly aware of the distance we have travelled. Korngold’s music has transported us these last few years, but it has transformed us, too. This recording is our catharsis, a balm for those difficult years. Today, we realize just how lucky we are to be able to give concerts, to create encounters with audiences and to touch people through our recordings.
‘Encounters’ could well be the title of this album. It is not only a musical encounter with Korngold, but a temporal one as well, taking us on a journey from Vienna to Hollywood, through the dark decades of history. It is also an encounter of artistry and friendship with Severin, who has guided us from his piano. And finally, it is an encounter with Challenge, who put their faith in us for these two recordings, giving us the support every artist hopes to receive.
Translation: Josh Dillon/Muse Translations