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Landscapes is a journey in sound to the roots of the Schumann Quartet, a foursome made up of the three brothers Erik, Ken and Mark Schumann and the viola player Liisa Randalu. Four very different works contribute their personal stories to form a magical whole. At the album’s hub is Arvo Pärt’s composition Fratres, meaning “brothers”. The Schumann Quartet rehearsed the work with Pärt in Viimsi in Estonia and recorded it there. The personal contact with the composer came through Pärt’s Estonian compatriot Liisa Randalu.

The biographical and contextual links that are particularly evident in this piece, while influencing the whole choice of works in this Berlin Classics debut, are almost incidental to the instinctive companionship of the quartet’s members. The Schumann Quartet was founded about five years ago, but its unique playing culture means it already has an international reputation as one of the best quartets around. “One look, and I know how he/she would like to play the music at that moment,” says Ken Schumann about the mystical communion within the ensemble. It is this intuitive exchange between one another and the wish to raise this communication to the maximum degree, “to see what the tension and our joint spontaneity can take,” that makes the quartet so exceptional and that has been captured on Landscapes. The Schumann Quartet find that the only way they can really project a work is live, “because all sense of imitation is gone and you are automatically true to yourself”, and so the recordings of Joseph Haydn’s “Sunrise” Quartet op. 76/4, Tōru Takemitsu’s Landscape I for string quartet and Béla Bartók’s Second String Quartet, Sz. 67 were recorded in June 2016 as a studio concert in front of an audience in the Bauer Studios in Ludwigsburg. Fratres was recorded one month later after an intensive series of rehearsals with Arvo Pärt in the Lutheran Church of St James in Viimsi, Estonia.

In line with the backgrounds of the quartet’s four members (the Schumann brothers are German, of Romanian-Japanese origin) the pieces on this album come from those various parts of the world: the album is a compilation of Estonian, Japanese, Hungarian and Austro-German works. The collection of pieces is tied together with the ribbon of Landscapes and is an integral part of the Schumann Quartet’s live programme. Magical associations.

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