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O schöne Nacht

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O schöne Nacht

Damask Vocal Quartet - O schöne Nacht - cover highres 7mntn014.jpg
Damask Vocal Quartet - O schöne Nacht - cover highres 7mntn014.jpg

O schöne Nacht


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O schöne Nacht: o beautiful night! Damask presents a program of luscious 19th-century quartets and piano pieces by Johannes Brahms and three of his contemporaries: Heinrich von Herzogenberg, Gustav Jenner, and Theodor Kirchner. Damask’s debut album was made in collaboration with French pianist Flore Merlin and Dutch producer Frerik de Jong and released on 7 Mountain Records. Cover art by Herco Dijk.


Damask is thrilled to present its debut album, O schöne Nacht, made in collaboration with pianist Flore Merlin and producer Frerik de Jong of 7 Mountain Records.

The CD is a collection of quartets and solo piano pieces by late 19th-century composers themed around night. The centerpieces of the disc are three complete quartet cycles by Johannes Brahms: Op. 31, 92, and 112. These cycles contain such favorites as “O schöne Nacht,” the CD’s title track, and “Der Gang zum Liebchen,” one of Damask’s favorites to perform and record. When considering repertoire for our debut album, the quartet knew Brahms would be a perfect fit for our sensibility as a quartet, which combines the power and vocal color of four soloists with a uniquely sensitive and unified ensemble sound. These pieces are popular with choirs, and occasionally are given ad-hoc performances with four singers, but haven’t received their due in a dedicated quartet situation; this album will provide a crucial missing link in the recorded canon.

These more well-known pieces by Brahms are set off by striking works of three of his lesser-known contemporaries: Heinrich von Herzogenberg, Gustav Jenner, and Theodor Kirchner. Herzogenberg’s music is intoxicatingly rich, lush, and romantic; his four Notturnos Op. 22 are a real discovery and an enormous pleasure to perform and listen to. Jenner was Brahms’s only formal composition student, and his music is intensely dramatic and text-driven, looking forward almost toward Schoenberg in its daring effects. Excitingly, O schöne Nacht presents the premiere recording of four piano pieces by Kirchner, his Notturnos Op. 28. Kirchner’s name is undeservedly obscure: these four short pieces are unabashedly operatic in scope, probing and individual and simply gorgeous, worthy companions to the passionate vocal music of the rest of the CD.

The quartet would like to thank Piet van Kuijken for the loan of the original 1868 Streicher grand piano used in the recording. It is by the same maker and very close to the same year as Brahms’s own instrument that he composed and played on in the latter part of his life; this Streicher opened up a very personal connection to the sound-world of these composers, made the music spring to life in a new way, and is as much a “personality” on the recording as any of the performers themselves.