Dvorak: String Quintet in G, Op. 77 & in E flat, Op. 97; Nocturne, Op. 40

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LABELS: PentaTone
WORKS: String Quintet in G, Op. 77 & in E flat, Op. 97; Nocturne, Op. 40
PERFORMER: Berlin Philharmonic String Quartet


The G major Quintet was one of Dvorák’s earliest successes. Composed in 1875, the same year as his Fifth Symphony and E major Serenade for Strings, it shares many of their openhearted qualities; it was also prizewinner in a competition for new chamber music, the jury for which praised its technical and formal mastery.

While the Quintet’s form is certainly beyond reproach, it is the work’s melodic qualities and seemingly effortless handling of the instruments that first strikes the listener, particularly in the ravishing slow movement. The Nocturne for strings, also included on this recording, was originally conceived as a second slow movement for the Quintet. Based on the slow movement of Dvorˇák’s early E minor String Quartet, it was later detached and published separately. The Berlin Philharmonic Quintet performs superbly. The first movement has just the right sense of understatement, while they bring credible depth and vocal expressiveness to the slow movement. They develop an appropriately epic feeling in the finale, with its almost Sibelian first theme. The Scherzo is a little on the tame side, although the Trio has marvellous fluency. The remaining two works on this slender issue are also, for the most part, beautifully judged. Featuring excellent recorded sound, this disc is well worth investigating.


Jan Smaczny