Dvořák Piano Quartets Nos 1 & 2
Dvořák Piano Quartet
Supraphon SU 4257-2 72:48 mins
It’s easy to overlook early-ish works like these two piano quartets, especially since Dvořák went on to write far more famous works. But these are charming renditions which slip easily from sunny folk-infused playfulness to wistful melancholy, and savour Dvořák’s endlessly imaginative chamber textures. The softer string playing has a velvety gorgeousness which is balanced by some truly delightful, sparkling piano playing. The Lento of Quartet No. 2 is unforgettably, luxuriously expansive and dreamy, with superb blending of instruments.
Still, despite the lovely sound, this is quite well-behaved, metronomically-strict playing, especially considering that these works need lots of flexibility. These expansive movements were probably written with the players’ (rather than the listeners’) pleasure in mind, so need careful pacing and maximum variety. The quartet could enjoy Dvořák’s inspired harmonic shifts and moments of grandeur more. The accents could be more rustic, even vulgar and biting, showing off the Schubert-inspired Czech rhythms and melodies described in the excellent liner note (in four languages!). This smoothness of sound may be a trick of the recording quality, which seems sometimes to polish the edges a little too much. But overall, an enjoyable reading.