String Quartet No.3 in d minor
World Premiere Edition
"One of the greats as far as his compositional talent is concerned."---So wrote the respected musicologist Irene Suchy of Franz Mittler for CPO records.
Franz Mittler (1893-1970) was born in Vienna. At the Vienna Conservatory, he studied theory with Joseph Labor and composition with Richard Heuberger and Karl Prohaska. Mittler made a name for himself not only as a composer, but also as a poet and humorist. Of Jewish extraction, Mittler left Austria for New York in 1938 when the Nazis seized power. In the United States, Mittler enjoyed a varied career, performing chamber music on the radio, teaching, writing for Hollywood and television. (He composed a one finger polka for Groucho Marx) Eventually, he returned to Europe in 1964 and spent his final years teaching at the famed Mozarteum in Salzburg. Mittler composed in most genres and was, in his lifetime, perhaps best known for his songs. His chamber music, which consists of three string quartets, a piano trio and some instrumental sonatas, was written during the first half of his life. These works show that Mittler had firmly rejected the atonalism Schoenberg. Instead, his work takes Brahms as a starting point and builds on it, extending the limits of tonality and combining them with fresh and original ideas.
String Quartet No 3 in d minor dates from 1918. It is subtitled Aus der Wanderzeit (from the wandering time) and is a eulogy for the Old Austria of the fin d’siecle Habsburg Empire of Mittler’s youth, which by 1918 been destroyed by the First World War. The Quartet was meant to portray the break up of the Empire as well as areas which Mittler himself had visited. The big opening movement, entitled Wollynien (English Volhynia), refers to a German-Jewish enclave in the eastern part of the Empire, now part of Ukraine. Although discordant and in at times violent, this is not music of the Shtetl, though a few vague references can be heard. The second movement is a Scherzo, said to be Serbian. It begins in an typical Viennese fashion but soon a grotesque and angular Serbian dance takes center stage. The third movement, an Andante, is entitled Steiermark, the Austrian province of Styria. It the music is soft and rather romantic. The finale, Rhapsodia ungherese (Hungarian Rhapsody), opens in fits and starts with a dramatic introduction after which a slow and forlorn melody, clearly Hungarian, makes its appearance. Densely scored and powerful, the music limps along until it is interrupted by the violent opening chords which lead to an energetic fugue, followed by an ultra dramatic climax. Pizzicato deftly imitates the Hungarian cembalo. It is all incredibly well conceived. A sudden silence augurs a change of mood in which a wild dances makes a mad rush to the exciting coda.
Our world premiere edition, edited by R.H.R. Silvertrust, was made possible through the help of Professor Diana Mittler Battipaglia who provided us with parts made from the hand-written manuscript in her possession. This is without question an important early 20th century work which not only belongs on the concert stage but also will be found of great value to amateurs.
Parts & Score $38.95