Janacek: String Quartet No. 1; String Quartet No. 2; Violin Sonata; Pohádka

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COMPOSERS: Janacek
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: String Quartet No. 1; String Quartet No. 2; Violin Sonata; Pohádka
PERFORMER: Jana Vlachová (violin), Mikael Ericsson (cello), FrantisŠek Mal´y (piano); Vlach Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: 8.553895
JanácŠek’s two string quartets, born out of his love for a much younger woman, not only require great virtuosity and control, but an almost operatic command of expression on the part of the performers. Both the groups here come with an enviable pedigree, but their similar background in the Czech tradition does not exclude marked differences of approach. The Vlach Quartet’s performance is strongly characterised, but occasionally mannered; the swooning phrasing of the opening of the First Quartet seems particularly self-conscious, and nor are they helped by a close and slightly acid recorded sound. Nevertheless, there is much to admire, especially in the Second Quartet and Jana Vlachová’s playing of the Violin Sonata.

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The PrazŠák Quartet’s performance is in a different league. From the start of the First Quartet it finds the heart of this music and is unfailingly focused on the expressive content. Its playing is not only dramatic, but astonishingly beautiful, especially in the slow movement of the second: these are truly remarkable performances which stand with the very finest. Jan Smaczny