S0690. LÉNER QUARTET: Nostalgia, incl.: Hofstetter [att.Haydn] & Mendelssohn; w.Léon Goossens: Oboe Quartet in F, K.370 (Mozart); w.Olga Loeser-Lebert: Piano Quintet in A (Dvorák). (Japan) Opus Kura 2114, recorded 1928-35. Transfers by Yasuhara. - 4582158681141
“The Léner Quartet is one of the most important chamber groups in twentieth century history. They made the first complete recording of Beethoven’s string quartets, and they had a career of significance from their founding in Budapest in 1918 until the Second World War brought the original group to an end….They made other important recordings as well as the Beethoven cycle, including a classic of the Brahms Clarinet Quintet with Charles Draper, and the Debussy and Ravel Quartets. They were very highly regarded in Europe and in London. In France, Ravel heard them and encouraged them, coaching them in his Quartet.
The recordings here date from 1928-1935, and represent a style of string playing that has long vanished. The Léner members use considerably greater rubato than is the norm today, although they never lose the shape of the music. They also employ a greater use of portamento and a wider vibrato than is typically heard today. Some may find it cloying, others (myself included) will find it endearing. What is clear in these recordings is that we have a quartet in which all the members listen carefully to each other and reflect each other’s inflections and match each other’s sound palettes perfectly. These are performances of great beauty, performances with a touching ‘old world’ quality about Roman Hoffstetter’s Quartet, by the way, is the one originally attributed to Haydn as Op.3, #5, with the famous third movement Serenade—the scholarship uncovering its true authorship was long after this 1928 recording. The British oboist Léon Goossens is a wonderful partner for the Léner in the Mozart, playing with a warm tone and matching phrasing perfectly with the strings. Olga Loeser-Lebert was a German pianist, wife of an American art collector Charles Loeser, and the regular partner of the Léner Quartet. In addition to the Dvořák, she recorded the Brahms and Schumann piano quintets with them. I had not encountered this lovely recording of the Dvořák before now, and found it a delight. The elements of lyrical warmth and a strong rhythmic pulse are in perfect balance here. One of the trademarks of the Léner is the richness of their tonal balance, due in part to the richness of tone of the bottom half of the ensemble, violist Sándor Roth and cellist Imre Hartman. I have always found their sound richer and more attractive than their main competitors, the Budapest Quartet.
These are performances of great warmth and tenderness, but never crossing the line into sentimentality or sogginess, in large part because of that firm rhythmic pulse. The transfers by Opus Kura are very good, though the Dvorák seems a bit duller and less vivid than the other works. A huge added bonus to this disc is the superb note by Tully Potter, a source of much great information about the Léner. This disc is absolutely treasurable - a ‘must-have’ for anyone who truly loves chamber music.”
- Henry Fogel, FANFARE
"The Léner Quartet enjoyed one of the great recording careers, lasting from 1922 to 1939 and involving distinguished guest artists: pianist Loeser-Lebert, hornists Aubrey and Dennis Brain, bassoonist Hinchliff, oboist Goossens, clarinetist Charles Draper, violists d’Oliveira and William Primrose, and bassist Hobday. The Léner legacy is a collector’s dream…."
-Tully Potter, CLASSIC RECORD COLLECTOR, Summer, 2003
“Leon Goossens was one of the two most influential oboe virtuosos of the twentieth century, the other being Marcel Tabuteau, the celebrated first oboe of the Philadelphia Orchestra. Goossens was born in Liverpool, England, in June 1897, into a family of musicians; his father and brother (both named Eugene) were famous conductors, while his two sisters became prominent harpists. Leon's first musical training was on the piano. He took up the oboe under the tutelage of Charles Reynolds at the age of eight. He began to make professional appearances just two years later at ten. Between 1911 and 1914, he was a student in William Malsch's class at London's Royal College of Music and won the position of solo oboe of Sir Henry Wood's famous Queen's Hall Orchestra soon after his 17th birthday.
Though wounded whilst on active service during World War I, Goossens resumed his orchestral post, but transferred to the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, in 1924. His autobiography describes how he often supervised the orchestra's rehearsals when Sir Thomas Beecham arrived late. 1924 also saw the commencement of his academic career, with his appointment as professor of oboe at the Royal College (1924 - 1939) and also at the Royal Academy of Music, at which he remained until only 1935.
Leon Goossens was principal oboist of the Royal Philharmonic Society Orchestra, also becoming first oboe of the London Philharmonic upon its foundation in 1932. By now, he was also internationally famous as a soloist, having undertaken many solo engagements in Europe and the U.S. His exceptional musical gifts and astounding technique also encouraged leading British composers to write new works for him. Arnold Bax,Sir Arthur Bliss, Benjamin Britten, Elgar, and Vaughan Williams (whose oboe concerto is probably the finest work written for Goossens) were just a few among the many who produced works especially for him.
Goossens received the CBE in 1950. In June 1962, an automobile accident resulted in serious injuries to his face, teeth, and lips, though after a long recovery period and with colossal determination and persistence, he regained his technique. By 1966, Goossens had resumed his concert career, his former powers practically undiminished. He continued to give lecture recitals and master classes, and remained active as a performer until well into his eighties. Leon Goossens died in London in February 1988. His principal contribution to the oboe was to sweeten its sound, bringing new expressivity and brilliance, which helped elevate the oboe's stature as a solo instrument. He is regarded as the founder of the new English school of oboe playing. Remarkably, he used only one instrument, a Loree thumb-plate system oboe made in 1907, for the entire duration of his career. His playing style and technical innovations are related in a book, simply entitled OBOE, written in collaboration with his student Edwin Roxburgh in 1977.”
- Michael Jameson, allmusic.com