We are delighted to announce that in the summer of 2019, O schöne Nacht won the Choc de Classica, a prestigious French award for recordings. Below is the full review from the June 2019 issue of Classica, with an English translation beneath.
With intimate understanding of the songs of Brahms and his contemporaries, Damask Quartet gives voice to the night.
Brahms' writing, which weaves voices together so naturally that each seems born of the others, is a perfect fit for the spirit of Damask Quartet, an international vocal ensemble founded in 2014 in the Netherlands. Katharine Dain's agile, round soprano, the voluptuous and vibrant mezzo-soprano of Marine Fribourg, Guy Cutting's flexible and lustrous tenor voice, and the deep warmth of baritone Drew Santini are all portals to the composer’s shimmering sound-world. From pianist Flore Merlin’s first arpeggios, Brahms’s Vier Quartette Op. 92 envelop us in the warmth of the night, its romantic possibilities and its sensuality.
We then discover the Vier Notturnos Op. 22 of Heinrich von Herzogenberg (1843-1900), more classical in style but irresistibly charming: melodic writing, graceful melismas. Night is also a time of dancing and celebration. In Brahms's Op. 31, Wechsellied zum Tanze separates the low and high voices: the Indifferent Ones sing a dark, erotic waltz, leaning especially on the word “Tanz,” which bursts and overflows with pleasure; meanwhile, the Lovers fly away on a waltz of flowery weightlessness. The Lieder of Gustav Jenner (1865-1920), with their vertical vocal writing and tormented character, form the dramatic heart of the program.
The Notturnos Op. 28 for piano, by Theodor Kirchner (1823-1903), are four lonely meditations; Flore Merlin unerringly guides us over their vertiginous musical paths. The choice of piano, a J. B. Streicher from 1868, allows the musical lines to be clearly drawn, rather than drowned in Romantic caricature. The subsequent return to Brahms with Sehnsucht, its waters representing both the passing of time and the shedding of tears, acts as both a wound and a consolation. And suddenly it's day again, spring, love, with the innocence of Himmel strahlt so helle and the alliterations of Rote Rosenknospen. In a stroke of supreme elegance, the record closes with Liebe Schwalbe, Kleine Schwalbe, a brief message of love sent on the wings of a swallow, as if to emphasize that nothing had happened but five musicians communing for a moment with these works—and with us.