Dvorák: Piano Quintet
These two cornerstones of the chamber repertoire were cleverly aimed at a growing, highly enthusiastic audience for Dvoπák’s music, though in very different environments. The Piano Quintet was flawlessly designed for listeners attuned to the Romantic accent in a Classical frame, but one that was also eager for more of the Bohemian accent that Dvoπák had so cunningly crafted. Simpler in form and musical language, the American Quartet drew on Dvoπák’s understanding of his New World audiences. In both cases he produced works that have retained their hold on an admiring public since their premieres.
Presenting a recording of these two most popular chamber works in a very competitive field is a brave undertaking. The ensemble has a clear engagement with expressive detail in the first movement of the Quintet, but finds it harder to deal with a sense of developmental line; the result alternates between arresting moments – the playing is always beautiful – and rather hurried, overwrought passagework. There is much to admire in the rest of the quintet, but the performance does not really cohere by comparison with the Gaudier Ensemble.
Their way with the American Quartet has distinct similarities. There is lavish attention to detail, but impatience with developmental writing and some interpretative decisions seem perverse; peculiarly the highly expressive slow movement sounds almost perfunctory. There are many lovely moments in this well-recorded performance, but the Carmina Quartet fails to secure a convincingly complete interpretation. For that, the Pavel Haas Quartet’s marvellous rendition remains a gold standard.