Alla Czeca: Signum Quartet

Dvořák: String Quartet No. 13 in G; Schulhoff: Five Pieces; Suk: Meditation on the Old Czech Chorale Saint Wenceslas

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Album title:
Alla Czeca: Signum Quartet
Composer(s):
Dvorak, Schulhoff, Suk
Works:
Dvoπák:String Quartet No. 13 in G; Schulhoff: Five Pieces; Suk: Meditation on the Old Czech Chorale Saint Wenceslas
Performer:
Signum Quartet
Label:
Capriccio
Catalogue Number:
Capriccio C 5257
Performance:
starstarstarstarstar
Recording:
starstarstarstarstar
5
Reviewer:
BBC Music Magazine
Alla Czeca: Signum Quartet

In this inspired programme we arrive at Dvořák’s final quartet through the prism of Schulhoff’s playful anatomisation of dance Alla Czeca and Suk’s profound, patriotic cri de coeur. And the raw, fresh immediacy of the Signum Quartet’s delivery transforms what could be interesting in theory into something singularly illuminating.

The links are fascinating: while Dvořák and Suk were famously close, Dvoπák’s admiration for Schulhoff as a piano prodigy is less widely known. Suk declared himself a man ‘to whom all -isms have been alien’, while for Schulhoff music ‘is never philosophy’. The latter’s witty essays in dance include a guttural ‘Waltz’ in 4/4 time and a sinister sotto voce ‘Serenata’, disturbed by wraith-like figures in 5/8. Intonation is gleamingly precise yet string timbres are aptly coarse. Dvořák’s spirit leaps up in the driving Alla Czeca, then subsides in a sleazily urban Tango Milonga, followed by a hair-raising Tarantella.

An intensely expressive account of Suk’s Meditation on the Old Czech Chorale makes an ideal still point before the mellifluous outpouring of Dvořák’s Quartet. The Signums capture its volatile spirit, balancing line against the rapid textural figures with robust grace, and expertly pace the long, involved Adagio, which finds echoes in the Suk. The germ of Schulhoff’s dances can be heard in a buoyant Scherzo, which here has just the right bitter tang, in contrast to the trio’s floating serenity. Helen Wallace

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