Prokofiev – String Quartets Nos. 1 & 2

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COMPOSERS: Prokofiev
LABELS: Supraphon
WORKS: String Quartets: No. 1 in B minor, Op. 50; No. 2 in F, Op. 92 (on Kabardinian themes); Sonata for Two Violins in C, Op. 56
PERFORMER: Pavel Haas Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: SU 3957-2

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Following the flames of their Janácek and Haas pairings, there is a fairly high level of intensity in these Prokofiev works for the young Czech players to meet, and they rise vividly to the challenge. Within a span of 11 middle years, Prokofiev goes from the struggle of a new song to a personal celebration of ethnic dance. The Pavel Haas grab you by the throat with the propulsive energy of the First Quartet, where Prokofiev only allows the occasional withdrawal into private lyricism in the first two movements, only to unleash it in a long, poised flood 

in the finale. The steadily suggestive Russian folk inflections are nicely nuanced, and although a more experienced team like the Emersons can spin a longer line in the finale, it’s probably right that the young Czech players feel its ebb and flow with passionate engagement.

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Like the Emersons, the Pavel Haas team unleashes its two violinists on the C major Sonata of 1932, where the proportions of song and rhythm are reversed and the recording – vivid but odd, putting the players up front with the echo behind them – catches the descent and climb of the first movement very beautifully. I’ve heard even more inscaped accounts of some of the Kabardinian melodies in the Second Quartet, not least from the Britten Quartet, but on the evidence of his resonant cadenza in the finale, Supraphon should give Peter Jarusek a shot at the Cello Sonata. David Nice