Rosamunde Quartet Conjures the Dark Night of the Soul
Othmar Schoeck: Notturno, Rosamunde Quartet; Christian Gerhaher, baritone (ECM)
When it comes to evoking music for the dark night of the soul, the exemplary Rosamunde Quartet—violinists Andreas Reiner and Diane Pascal, violist Helmut Nicolai, and cellist Anja Lechner—are the string-playing, art-music equivalent of the ancient Oneiroi, the mythological, and mischievous, Greek spirits who watched over dreams.
This five-movement work by the Swiss composer Othmar Schoeck (1886–1957), penned between 1931–33, is built around ten poems, sung in German by baritone Christian Gerhaher. Each is inspired by an inability to sleep or an unsettling dream, and most evoke images of nature as well as love and marriage. The narrator frequently is plagued by dark visions of looming clouds, black birds, and, at one point, the disquieting Styxian vision of his own soul floating down a river.
The Rosamunde Quartet, which has released several underrated recordings on the ECM label since its debut in 1992 (Rosamunde cellist Anja Lechner also has recorded for the label), delivers a rich yet varied sound, whether the music calls for a dreamy edginess, bold declarative introduction, or the comforting ebb and flow of the last movement, Rasch und kräftig.
This is a match made in heaven.
While accomplished at Haydn and the old masters, the ensemble is best known for its recording of modern works by Valentin Silvestrov, Tigran Mansurian, and Thomas Larcher, among others. The Rosamundes’ concert series at the Munich Academy of Art combines chamber music, film, readings and panel discussions—it’s an art-music lover’s dream holiday.