The musical influences of Friedrich Gernshiem are easy to hear; Robert Schumann, Camille Saint-Saëns, and Johannes Brahms. The latter is perhaps the strongest. Gernsheim was a friend and colleague of the famous composer.

Like Brahms, Gernsheim only wrote a handful of string quartets. The Diogenes Quartett launches a traversal of those five works with this release. Featured in this recording are Gernsheim’s first and third quartets.

The first quartet was written when Gernsheim was 33. While it’s not exactly a youthful work it does have a certain energy about it. Gernsheim’s melodies have a Schubertian grace about them. And they’re supported with lush Romantic harmonies that almost seem self-indulgent.

I especially enjoyed the final movement with its rapid accelerando. It was a frantic race to the finish that ended the work with a flourish.

Gernsheim’s third quartet was composed over a decade later. It’s the work of a more mature composer. Here the melodies are more fully formed, and sweetly romantic. The harmonies give the work a somewhat sentimental character (at least to these 21st Century ears).

The Diogenes Quartett plays with commitment and authority. Gerhsheim was a skilled composer, and the quartet makes the most of the material. Their ensemble blend is quite smooth — an asset with Gernsheim’s thick harmonies.

This is a solid start to what promises to be an interesting series. I look forward to volume two.

Friedrich Gernsheim: String Quartets, Vol. 1
String Quartet No. 1 in C minor, Op. 25
String Quartet No. 3 in F major, Op. 51
Diogenese Quartett
CPO 777 3872