String Quartet No. 12 in F, ‘American’; Waltzes, Op. 54 (arr. Dvořák/Kabát); Quartet Movement in F, B120
La Dolce Volta LDV 101 63:04 mins
Few prominent chamber ensembles can boast such a long-standing pedigree as the Talich Quartet. Originally founded way back in 1964, the Talichs have managed to sustain a distinctive identity over such an extended period of time – a challenge even for string players that are at the top of their game. But it has to be said that even those coming to this disc without any prior knowledge of the Talich Quartet’s history are likely to bowled over by the sheer freshness and youthful vivacity of their playing.
Take the ‘American’ F major String Quartet, for example. It’s a work that the Talichs must have performed countless times. Yet there is nothing routine about this performance. Both the outer movements and the Scherzo are delivered with a winning combination of exuberance, dynamism and irresistible energy in the rhythmically assertive passages, together with suitably tender reflection in the more lyrical material. Equally compelling is their performance of the melancholic Lento with cellist Michal Kaňka sculpting a wonderfully expressive line in the haunting melody of the opening.
Most recordings of the ‘American’ couple this with another of Dvořák’s string quartets. The Talichs, however, offer a more unconventional programme, imaginatively giving us the little-known but delightful first movement of an abandoned Quartet in F major dating from the early 1880s, alongside the charming Eight Waltzes which were originally conceived for piano. Dvořák had in fact already transcribed the first two of these dances for strings – the remaining six are featured here in superb world-premiere recordings using the idiomatic arrangements by Jiří Kabát.