E.Schulhoff, SQ4ts Nos.1 & 2, 5 Pieces for SQ4t,
The string quartets of Schulhoff’s are masterpieces, on par with the best of the 20th century. If you look or listen beyond the first page of String Quartet No.1 (1924), inauspiciously black with notes and an unisono assault on the listener, things turn immediately to the charming, and then to unbridled fun. The viola friendly quartet features lots of sul ponticello whispering, there are slides, tickles and spider-feet, pizzicato picking, au talon bowing, and col legno knocking… in short: it’s a whole bag of fun and stomps around the block with gusto. I remember hearing the quartet live for the first time with the Dutch EnAccord Quartet and what a revelation that was! Much the same goes for the barn-burning razzmatazz Five Pieces for String Quartet, arguably his best work for string quartet.
The performances here are good and the sound is varying but decent, but the main reason to pick the Aviv Quartet’s renditions on Naxos are availability, economy, and convenience – having both quartets and the Five Pieces in one place. If Capriccio decides to reissue the Petersen Quartett recordings (which cover the complete works for String Quartet except for the Divertimento, plus the Violin Sonata, the Duo, and the Sextet), that will be the obvious first choice with neither sound- nor performance-qualms of any kind.