"This is top class, with a great moving power too."Het Parool, 25-11-2021
Erich Wolfgang Korngold (1897-1957) was a genius. Naturally he was most widely known and rewarded as one of the founding composers of Hollywood film music, but he is not a particularly well-known composer in the classical music world. His three string quartets are surely masterpieces and can be seen as modern tone poems imbued with beautiful melancholy and Viennese charm. A child prodigy, Korngold wrote some of the most heart-wrenching melodies, which are sure to leave any listener longing for more.
His String Quartet No. 2, Op. 26 (1933) was written just before Korngold moved to Hollywood and is full of musical imagery of Vienna, with gestures towards the waltzes of Johan Strauss II as well as the intricate lyricism of Richard Strauss. A fierce anti-serialist, Korngold was determined that it was still possible to stretch the boundaries of tonality without adapting to the 12-tone technique.
The String Quartet No. 3, Op. 34 (1945) is full of themes that he used in his film scores and was written when Korngold was suffering from deep depression. The quartet is much darker.
Why did we choose to tackle Korngold’s music for this unique project of a direct-to-disc recording on vinyl? The music resonates deeply with us, as it represents the epitome of late romanticism and lyrical expression. We all have a profound love for romantic music and after listening to some recordings of his quartets we knew instantly these were the perfect fit for us. It was definitely a challenge to understand the idiom in Korngold’s writing. Our individual personalities as well as the Alma sound is clearly audible.
What makes a direct-to-disc recording so special? Without doubt, it is the most honest way of recording. What you hear is what you get, with no editing whatsoever. It is thus a studio recording with all of the nuances and thrill of a live performance. Evidently, the process is extremely strenuous and challenging. You want to make sure that the performance is as perfect as can be, but you also have to take into account the fact that perfection is simply not feasible. But the question is whether or not perfection is truly exciting and honest. Korngold’s music was by now deeply embedded in our DNA and we knew how to tell the story!
This is top class, with a great moving power too.
Het Parool, 25-11-2021
.... the lively and approachable playing of the Alma Quartet creates an intimacy that makes listening to the entire album a true experience. The acoustics of the concert character remain; the visual aspect of a concert can be replaced by one's own imagination - perhaps an impetus to invent a separate plot and characters for each string quartet.
Die Tonkunst, 06-8-2022
The Alma Quartet (...) offers an agile and inspired reading.
It produces rich tones for which Korngold and Challenge Classics’ Direct-to-Disc recording share the credit.
Fanfare Magazine, 01-3-2022
the sound is top notch....These are very good performances by any yardstick, and the sound, while possibly a little brittle, is splendidly clear and detailed.
Music Web International, 04-2-2022
The recording offered by Alma Quartet, a Dutch quartet formed in 2014 that is increasing its prestige, is the best available of these works for its understanding of the expressive world of Korngold, its perfect intonation and reading of these difficult works.
The emotion is palpable beneath the sensitive arches of the Alma, which offers an inspiring version of this demanding score, without taking away any spirit. Listen to the intrada of the Finale, before the stubborn fugato resounds, great art.
Here you can hear how Korngold is dragging that musical legacy of Vienna into modernity. The Alma Quartet (consisting of members of the Concertgebouw Orchestra, namely Marc Daniël van Biemen, Benjamin Peled, Jeroen Woudstra and Clément Peigné) interprets it with great feeling and drive.
Nieuwe Noten, 23-1-2022
Depth and tenderness, shadow and light. And also more ambivalent biting vitality. The sound recording produced remarkable for the studio in March 2021 is masterful.
4/5 The Alma Quartet approaches the work's astringency and brittleness with just as much sympathy and imagination as they bring to N0.2's Viennese schwung.
BBC Music magazine, 20-1-2022
Exciting and with a touch of sweet nostalgia. Such good music.
De Volkskrant, 21-12-2021
The foursome has explored every goat path in the quartets and then shows the listener in one go the most beautiful flowers along the deepest abysses. That's how you do it.
Fortunately, the Alma Quartet consists of competent players with a clear vision of the music. This gives the string quartets a clear head and tail and they are a pleasure to listen to.
Katholiek Nieuwsblad, 03-12-2021
The true "vinyl audiophiles" have a demonstration-quality showpiece here
The Amsterdam Alma Quartet directly on vinyl
the resounding result approaches perfection. Living, human perfection that is, because the tension of the musicians transfers itself to the listener on the edge of the seat.
Opus Klassiek, 20-11-2021
The Amsterdam foursome plays formidable
while at the same time you feel that that was not the main goal. Their captivating performance respects Korngold's expressive music.
De Standaard, 12-11-2021
4,5 / 5 The sound stage reconstructs the four components of the quartet ideally in the center of the speakers, placing them at a fair depth (I believe that the miking has not been carried out, as is increasingly used, in an exaggeratedly close-up way), in order to restore the physical spatiality of the environment
***** For Korngold’s two quartets, they have now employed a process in which the music is recorded directly to CD without any intermediate technical steps. This gives the music a stage-like tension, even if it is recorded in the studio.
**** Recording an album in a studio where anything is possible, but still opting for a direct-to-disc recording: the men of the Alma Quartet did it.