Dvorak: String Quartets, Opp. 51, 96 (American), 105 & 106; Piano Quintet in A, Op. 81,

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COMPOSERS: Dvorak
LABELS: ASV
WORKS: String Quartets, Opp. 51, 96 (American), 105 & 106; Piano Quintet in A, Op. 81,
PERFORMER: Lindsay Quartet; Peter Frankl (piano), Patrick Ireland (viola)
CATALOGUE NO: CD DCS 446 Reissue (1991-4)

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The Lindsay Quartet has done an enormous service for the Czech chamber repertoire: its recordings of the Smetana and Janácek Quartets have long been among the leaders in the field. This generous compilation of chamber music by Dvorák is gleaned from recordings made in the early Nineties.

Along with his best known quartets, the ensemble includes the marvellous E flat Quartet, the finest from Dvorák’s middle period, as well as the famous Piano Quintet, Op. 81, and the American String Quintet, Op. 97. Moreover its inclusion of a number of shorter pieces for strings, including a real rarity – the slow movement of the early F minor Quartet which Dvorák later turned into the Romance for violin – adds delight to distinction.

The Lindsays are unfailingly responsive to the many facets of Dvorák’s personality displayed in these works. Their performances of the two quintets are among the best available, though, notwithstanding Peter Frankl’s outstanding piano-playing, I would still favour the Gaudier Ensemble or Clifford Curzon’s vintage recording. The quartets also fare excellently with highly recommendable performances of the last two in particular; their slightly febrile rendition of the American Quartet is a little disappointing, and not a patch on the wonderful Pražák performance. One of the most impressive features of this appealing collection is the way in which the players bring as much insight to the shorter pieces as to the major works. In so doing they provide by far the most satisfying performance available of the Bagatelles and the glorious Terzetto for 2 violins and viola – a work that should be in every quartet’s repertoire.

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Jan Smaczny