ALBUM TITLE: Janácek
WORKS: String Quartet No. 1; String Quartet No. 2; A Tale; Violin Sonata
PERFORMER: Britten Quartet, Andrew Shulman (cello), Peter Manning (violin), Ian Brown (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CDC 7 54787 2 DDD
Now that Janácek’s operas have secured an impregnable position in the repertory, interest has been growing in other aspects of the composer’s work. Last year, András Schiff’s Mondsee Festival dedicated itself to Janácek’s chamber music. Schiff himself gives the first set of the piano pieces On an Overgrown Path, written between 1901 and 1908. These are charming miniatures, drawing heavily on Moravian folksongs, but shot through with an emotional anguish brought about by the death of Janácek’s daughter in 1903. Schiff delivers these pieces with precision, wit and a great tenderness. Also here is the zestful Concertino (1925), linked programmatically and stylistically with The Cunning Little Vixen, and a boisterous account of the 1922 Violin Sonata from Schiff and Yuuko Shiokawa. The Britten Quartet disc (which also features this sonata) is altogether more polished and less impulsive, but none the less committed. What might be lost in terms of the raw energy of the quartets is compensated for by a sure understanding of the line of Janácek’s intense and fragmentary lyricism here. Both the playing and the sound are crystal clear.