Szymanowski Quartet and Markus Groh SACDs Released by Avie Records

The Szymanowski Quartet recently released an SACD on the Avie Records label featuring music by Hadyn, Bacewicz and Dvorak, and a second from young pianist Markus Groh featuring the music of Liszt.

The Szymanowski Quartet, a BBC New Generation Artist in 2001, makes its commercial recording debut with three contrasting works that perfectly demonstrate these young instrumentalists’ immense charisma and countless fine qualities, in the elegance of Haydn to the rustic hues of Dvorak, and the folk-tinged neo-classicism of their Polish compatriot Grazyna Bacewicz who was a protйgй of the ensemble’s namesake. What links these three very different works is that they were written by composers who knew the medium from the inside; all were performers in quartets at some point during their careers.

The Szymanowski Quartet joins a distinguished roster of young artists introduced by Avie Records over the years. Since establishing themselves in Warsaw in 1995, the ensemble has won numerous international awards, including the 2005 Karol Szymanowski Award, marking the first time a string quartet had received the honour. The Quartet has performed throughout the world, at the BBC Proms, City of London, Bath and Schleswig-Holstein Festivals, in London’s Wigmore Hall, New York’s Carnegie Hall, and tours in France, Germany and Australia. Since 2000, the Szymanowski Quartet has been in Residence at the Musikhochschule in Hanover, Germany. Forthcoming UK performances include the Wigmore Hall 18 June, Leicester 21 June, and the Thaxted Festival 2 July.

“Superb technical control, innate musicality and an extraordinary sense of ensemble. Couple that with a deep understanding of their repertoire and an involvement that communicates itself electrifyingly to an audience, and the Szymanowski Quartet bears the hallmark of greatness. I guarantee you will be hearing a lot more from this gifted young group.” – The Strad

“A vibrant and wonderfully focused performance… The embraces at the end suggested that for the performers, too, it had been equally special.” – The Guardian

The disc features Haydn String Quartet in C Major Op. 54/2, H. 3/57, Bacewicz String Quartet No. 4 and Dvorak String Quartet No. 14 in A flat Major, Op. 105. The catalogue number is AV 2092.

Markus Groh, Liszt B-A-C-H, Totentanz, Sonata in B minor

The young pianist Markus Groh, first prize winner at the Queen Elisabeth competition in 1995, makes his recording debut with a stunning performance of Liszt’s iconic B minor Sonata together with the lesser heard Fantasy and Fugue on B-A-C-H and Totentanz, more commonly heard in the version for piano and orchestra. Groh’s performance loses none of the impact, however. This is a tour de force of masterly piano playing, one that Liszt himself surely would have approved. Groh’s veneration for composer comes through not only in his staggering performance but also in his highly original booklet note, a personal homage to the definitive Romantic master.

Groh’s impressive international itinerary includes performances of the great romantic repertoire with such orchestras as the London Symphony Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony and St. Petersburg Philharmonic. He is a regular visitor to Japan and also performs frequently in his native Germany. Liszt’s technicolour writing and Groh’s pianistic fireworks are brought to vivid life by the SACD recording.

“He is clearly a talent to watch. The approach was fresh, the clarity and musicality of his phrasing impeccable, and his range of keyboard colour quite remarkable.” – The Guardian

“A superb recital … He ended with Liszt’s “Venezia e Napoli” in a reading that put the music’s poetry in the spotlight and took its virtuosic dazzle for granted.” – The New York Times

“Pianist Markus Groh laid into Tchaikovsky’s Concerto No.1 with a warrior’s fury … One sensed the big-moment thrills coming in superbly athletic, fast-moving octaves that rose in intensity until they stammed heroically into a cadence, and in fusillades of beautifully balanced chords that yielded wispy inner voices seemingly independent of the larger musical line.” – Washington Post

Total running time is 59 minutes, the performance was recorded 20-22 December 2004, Reitstadel – Neumarkt/Oberfalz, Germany.