String Quartet No. 8 in E major, Op. 80; String Quartet No. 10 in E flat major, Op. 51
Signum Classics SIGCD597 57.24 mins
This latest release in the Albion Quartet’s complete Dvořák cycle comprises two works composed in 1876 and 1878 respectively. The first shows Dvořák approaching maturity while the second inhabits fully the textural brilliance of Dvořák’s greatest quartets. The Albion’s string sound is beautifully focused and their attention to detail is exemplary; they also have a strong grasp of form in the first movement of the E major Quartet and externalise the ‘heart on sleeve’ melancholy of the slow movement with clear relish. The Trio of the Scherzo and the more frantic passages in the finale of could have done with more careful articulation, but as a whole this is impressive performing.
The approach in the E flat Quartet is less well balanced. Their slightly brisk tempo in the first movement (Allegro, ma non troppo) gets in the way of its unfolding lyrical generosity, a pity since their performance of the ‘Dumka’ second movement is a winning balance of passion and playfulness and the slow movement, ‘Romanza’ is beautifully sustained. A less close recording might have made some of the faster passages seem less congested, but as a whole these performances give every reason to look forward to further instalments of their cycle.
Find out more about Dvořák and his works here