Anne-Sophie von Otter / Brodsky Quartet

Il Tramonto / String Quartets

Format: CD
Label: Challenge Classics
UPC: 0608917200829
Catnr: CC 72008
Release date: 19 June 2007
1 CD
Challenge Classics
Catalogue number
CC 72008
Release date
19 June 2007

About the album

It will come as a surprise to many people that the famous orchestral composer Ottorino Respighi, known for such works as the Pines and the Fountains of Rome, also wrote chamber music. But Respighi was very interested in chamber music and wrote a considerable amount.

Respighi (1879-1936) was born in Bologna and studied violin, piano and composition at the local conservatory. Becoming a first rate viola player, he was engaged to play a season for the Imperial Orchestra in St. Petersburg where he met and subsequently studied composition with Rimsky-Korsakov. Upon his return to Italy, he took up residence in Rome where he lived for the rest of his life.

Quartetto in Re Maggiore (D Major)

Respighi composed this string quartet in 1904. This work dates from the time when the composer was a member of the Mugellini Quartet in Bologna and was first performed in 1906; it belongs to his early period (he was around 25 years old). It is in four sections: allegro moderato, tema con variazioni, intermezzo and finale. The Brodskys give a warm, open-hearted account of this section and the tempo is as indicated. The theme of the second section will be familiar to those who know Respighi’s works from this period; it has rather a sense of longing. The variations are taken up by the different instruments in turn and a mournful-sounding variation is given by the violins and viola accompanied by staccato cello. Rising and falling themes reminiscent of Puccini’s "Crisantemi" on violins feature in the third section which transforms into a rondo-like passage where each instrument successively takes them up. The last section consisting of taut allegros (which seems to presage the Violin Sonata of 1917) has separate, exuberant, solos for the violin and viola ending in a dramatic flourish Il Tramonto.

Il Tramonto (The Sunset)

Respighi set several of Percy Bysshe Shelley's poems, but only three were set for mezzo-soprano and orchestra: Arethusa in 1910, Il tramonto in 1914, and La Sensitiva between 1914 and 1915. Of the three, Il tramonto (The Sunset) was also written for voice and string quartet, and is heard in this version as often as in the chamber orchestral version. The smaller accompanimental forces give the piece a much more intimate feeling, beautifully suiting the nature of the poem. The strings open the work dramatically, then settle down to a calm lyricism. The singer describes the "One within whose subtle being...genius and death contended." The music swells as the poem tells of his love for a Lady. It then serenely describes the field they walk through, the nature around them, and the colors of the sunset with a repeated, rounded-contour figure similar to what is found in a Field or Chopin nocturne. Very quietly, with the strings almost still, the Youth wonders "Is it not strange...I never saw the sun? We will walk here To-morrow; thou shall look on it with me." A brief interlude follows, and the nature figure returns before the music turns to hard chords as the Lady finds the Youth dead the next morning. The chords soften as the poem describes how she "died not, nor grew wild, but year by year lived on...." A lighter texture with moving musical lines underscores the poem's description of her life, with the lower strings sometimes moving in parallel lines to the voice. The Lady's final appeal for the same peace that the Youth found in death is uttered with a calm weariness before a violin solo concludes the piece in the major. The impression of the whole work is that of a romantic ballad or a tone poem in miniature, because the strings do not just provide a harmony to the voice's melody, but actually describe the text as well. The mezzo-soprano then fits in as essentially another instrument, reciting the poem in an arioso fashion. Respighi's wonderfully textured music not only convincingly evokes the scenes of the poem, but also expresses the sentiments of the two characters, revealing a more personal aspect of his talent.

Quartetto Dorico

This work dates from a very prolific period when Respighi was becoming internationally famous with Pini di Roma. He based the work on one of the ancient modes, Dorian (or Doric). It is played through as a single movement but this can be divided into 4 sections I. Energico, 2. Allegro moderato, 3. Elegiaco (adagio), 4. Moderato energico (Passacaglia). The Brodskys give out the (chorale) theme strongly and it is expanded and taken up consecutively by each instrument. The performance varies between strong, almost strident or harsh and changes to sweeping lyrical passages in quick succession. The scherzo section is flowing but the fugato at the end is more vivace and the players give it a kind of post-modern edge. The adagio section follows smoothly on and the Brodskys bring out the supporting parts for ‘cello and viola with darting cross movements for first violin leading the way. The finale section recapitulates the Dorian theme. The quartet is a prime example of how Respighi was so greatly influenced by music of the past as it explores the use of eight different modes throughout its single-movement structure.
Sublieme kamermuziek van Ottorino Respighi
Voor veel luisteraars zal het als een verrassing komen dat de bekende orkestrale componist Ottorino Respighi, bekend van zijn Fontane di Roma, ook veel kamermuziek heeft geschreven. Ondanks dat dit deel van zijn repertoire minder bekend is, zijn deze werken minstens zo fraai. Respighi (1879-1936) groeide op in Bologna waar hij viool, piano en compositie studeerde. Na succes te hebben verkregen als altviolist was hij gevraagd om een seizoen voor het keizerlijk orkest in St. Petersburg te spelen, waar hij Rimsky-Korsakov ontmoette en onder hem compositie begon te studeren. Na zijn terugkeer naar Italië verhuisde hij naar Rome, waar hij de rest van zijn leven verbleef.

Op dit album worden drie van zijn werken uitgevoerd door het vermaarde Brodsky kwartet met mezzosopraan Anne-Sophie von Otter. Het Quartetto in Re Maggiore (kwartet in D majeur) kent vier delen: allegro moderato, tema con variazioni, intermezzo en finale. Het stuk doet denken aan zijn andere orkestwerken uit deze periode en drukt een sterk gevoel van verlangen uit. Il Tramonto (De zonsondergang) is geschreven op de tekst van een gedicht van Percy Bysshe Shelley. De tekst wordt dramatisch gedragen door de strijkers en de muziek doet denken aan een melancholische Chopin Nocturne. Het Quartetto Dorico is gebaseerd op de oude Dorische kerktoonladder en wisselt krachtige, vlotte passages af met slepende lyrische delen. Het kwartet is een goed voorbeeld van de diversiteit van Respighi’s composities.


Since its formation in 1972, the Brodsky Quartet has performed over 3000 concerts on the major stages of the world and has released more than 60 recordings. A natural curiosity and an insatiable desire to explore has propelled the group in a number of artistic directions and continues to ensure them not only a prominent presence on the international chamber music scene, but also a rich and varied musical existence. Their energy and craftsmanship has attracted numerous awards and accolades worldwide, while ongoing educational work provides a vehicle for passing on experience and staying in touch with the next generation.

Throughout their 40-year career, the Brodsky Quartet has enjoyed a busy international performing schedule, and has toured extensively throughout Australasia, North and South America, Asia, South Africa, and Europe, as well as performing at many of the UK’s major festivals and venues. The quartet is also regularly recorded for broadcast on BBC Radio. Over the years the Brodsky Quartet has undertaken numerous performances of the complete cycles of quartets by Schubert, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Britten, Schoenberg, Zemlinsky, Webern and Bartok. It is, however, the complete Shostakovich cycle that has now become synonymous with their name: their 2012 London performance of the cycle resulting in them taking the prestigious title of ‘Artist in Residence’ at London’s Kings Place.

The Brodsky Quartet also has a busy recording career, and 2012 marked the beginning of a new and exclusive relationship with Chandos Records. Releases on the label so far include Petits Fours,a celebratory album of ‘Encore’ pieces, arranged exclusively by the Quartet for their 40th anniversary; a Debussy compilation including the Quartet's long-awaited recording of the great Debussy Quartet; In the South featuring works by Verdi, Paganini, Wolf and Puccini; New World Quartets comprising works by Dvorak, Copland, Gershwin and Brubeck; and the first of two Brahms discs which includes the iconic Clarinet Quintet with collaborating partner, Michael Collins. Recent awards for recordings include the Diapason D'Or and the CHOC du Monde de la Musique for their recordings of string quartets by Britten, Beethoven and Janacek, and, for their outstanding contribution to innovation in programming, the Brodsky Quartet has received a Royal Philharmonic Society Award. They have taught at many international chamber music courses and held residencies in several music institutes, including the first such post at the University of Cambridge. They are currently International Fellows of Chamber Music at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and have been awarded Honorary Doctorates at the University of Kent and University of Teesside.

The Quartet is named after the great Russian violinist Adolf Brodsky, dedicatee of Tchaikovsky's violin concerto and a passionate chamber musician.
Daniel Rowland plays a violin made by Lorenzo Storioni of Cremona in 1793; Ian Belton’s violin is by Gio. Paolo Maggini c.1615 and Paul Cassidy plays on La Delfina viola, c. 1720, courtesy of Sra. Delfina Entrecanales. Jacqueline Thomas plays a cello made by Thomas Perry in 1785.

Anne Sophie von Otter
Internationally acclaimed Swedish mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter has long been considered one of the finest singers of her generation. A lengthy and exclusive relationship with Deutsche Grammophon produced a wealth of recordings and numerous awards including an International Record Critics’ Award (recording artist of the year), a Grammy Award (best classical vocal performance) for Mahler’s Des Knaben Wunderhorn, and a Diapason d’Or for a recording of Swedish songs with her long-time accompanist, Bengt Forsberg. She collaborated with pop legend Elvis Costello on the disc, For the Stars and in October 2010 released her first recording with the Naïve label, Love Songs, a collaboration with renowned jazz pianist Brad Mehldau. This was followed by her 2012 disc, Sogno Barocco – a collection of Italian baroque arias, scenes and duets with Leonardo García-Alarcón and Cappella Mediterranea – which was nominated for a Grammy Award. Her fourth recording for Naïve, Douce France, is a double CD of mélodies and chansons (released in October 2013).

Anne Sofie von Otter earned an international reputation as an outstanding Octavian (Der Rosenkavalier) with performances at the Royal Opera House, Bayerische Staatsoper, Opéra national de Paris, and the Wiener Staatsoper. She also performed the role as part of a series of engagements with James Levine and The Metropolitan Opera, and in Japan under Carlos Kleiber (available on DVD). Other seminal opera recordings include Le nozze di Figaro under Levine, Idomeneo, La clemenza di Tito and Orfeo ed Euridice under John Eliot Gardiner, Handel’s Ariodante and Hercules under Marc Minkowski and Ariadne auf Naxos under Giuseppe Sinopoli.
Recent opera highlights have included Clytemnestre (Iphigenie en Aulide) in Pierre Audi’s production for De Nederlandse Opera conducted by Marc Minkowski (available on DVD), Geneviève (Pelléas et Mélisande) under Philippe Jordan for Opéra national de Paris (available on DVD), Countess Geschwitz (Lulu) at The Metropolitan Opera, conducted by Fabio Luisi and her role debut in Charpentier’s Médeé for Oper Frankfurt. She appeared in Giulio Cesare at the 2012 Salzburg Festival with an all-star cast including Cecilia Bartoli and Andreas Scholl. In the 2013/14 season she appears in Christoph Marthaler’s production of Les contes d’Hoffmann at Madrid’s Teatro Real, in Götterdämmerung at Deutsche Oper Berlin under Sir Simon Rattle and in The Rake’s Progress at Theater an der Wien under Michael Boder. The diversity of this ever-evolving repertoire has played a key role in sustaining her international reputation as an operatic force.

A busy concert schedule takes Anne Sofie von Otter to all corners of the globe. Recent highlights include appearances with the Berliner Philharmoniker under Sir Simon Rattle, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra under David Robertson, the New York Philharmonic under Alan Gilbert, the Boston Symphony Orchestra under Daniele Gatti, Washington’s National Symphony Orchestra under Christoph Eschenbach and the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra under Sakari Oramo. She performed Wesendonck Lieder with Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse under Marc Minkowski and with the hr-Sinfonieorchester Frankfurt under Paavo Järvi as part of the Wagner bicentenary. In 2011 she appeared with Jonas Kaufmann and the Berliner Philharmoniker conducted by Claudio Abbado for a televised performance of Das Lied von der Erde on the one hundredth anniversary of Mahler’s death.



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