Dvorak: Piano Quintets in A, Opp. 5 & 81

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COMPOSERS: Dvorak
LABELS: Dorian
WORKS: Piano Quintets in A, Opp. 5 & 81
PERFORMER: Antonin Kubalek (piano); Lafayette String Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: DOR-90221 DDD
Dvorák’s famous A major Piano Quintet (Op. 81), with its open-hearted, affecting melody, has long been a favourite with listeners. That he wrote another piano quintet, in the same key, might come as a surprise. It was composed in 1872 at a time when Dvorák was emerging from a highly experimental phase. If the focus of its arguments is less easy to perceive than in the later quintet, there is much to enjoy in its striking invention. The Lafayette Quartet and Antonin Kubalek play it with true insight, as if it were familiar repertoire.

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Their performance of the later quintet is even better. Some may find the first movement a touch over-Romantic, but by the end of the finale I was quite won over to their communicative enthusiasm. The only problem is that the recorded sound robs the strings of some of their bloom.

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By comparison, the Gaudier Ensemble, though splendidly impassioned in the G major String Quintet, is more reserved. Susan Tomes’s piano playing certainly equals Kubalek’s, but the strings seem less unified in intent. This is a fine performance (though they leave out first movement repeats in both works), but of the two, the Lafayette Quartet takes the palm. Jan Smaczny