WORKS: Janácek: String Quartet No. 1 (Kreutzer Sonata); Haas: String Quartets Nos 1 & 3
PERFORMER: Pavel Haas Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: SU 3922-2
Demonstrating the same boldness and originality that characterised their stunning debut disc the Pavel Haas Quartet, armed with a new second violinist, deliver totally compelling and warmly recorded performances of the Janácek First Quartet and the First and Third Quartets by their namesake.
In the Janácek, the narrative of Tolstoy’s novel unfolds in a vivid manner, the dramatic and sometimes deliberately disruptive contrast in gesture and texture projected with the kind of spontaneity that one would expect at a concert.
In comparison, the Škampa Quartet (also on Supraphon) perhaps achieve greater structural subtlety, aiming for a more continuous sense of dialogue without in any way understating the drama inherent in the music.
Surprisingly, the audacious one-movement First Quartet by Pavel Haas predates Janácek’s work by three years. Yet the searing lyricism of the opening grave misterioso, presented here with a tremendous sense of foreboding, inhabits a similarly distinctive sound world to that of his teacher.
By the time Haas came to write his much larger Third Quartet, just before his deportation to Terezín, the Janácek influences have been fully absorbed into a highly individual and emotionally involving musical language, not least in the poignant quotation of the St Wenceslas Chorale near the close of the slow movement.
In both these Quartets, the Pavel Haas present a more impassioned view of the music than the rival Kocian Quartet on Praga Digitals. They are particularly impressive in the variations finale of the Third where each episode is delineated with urgency and brilliant aural imagination. Erik Levi