COMPOSERS: Antonín Dvorák,Josef Suk,Leoš Janácek
LABELS: Nimbus NI 6322
ALBUM TITLE: Dvorák • Janáček • Suk
WORKS: Dvorák: String Quartet No. 13; Suk: Meditation on the Old Czech Chorale ‘St Wenceslas’; Janáček: String Quartet No. 1
PERFORMER: Wihan Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: Nimbus NI 6322
The Wihan Quartet is one of the most experienced and admired of chamber ensembles. The present recording offers three classics from the Czech repertoire and also furnishes evidence of the development of the ensemble with the recent appointment of a new viola player, Jakub Cepicky.
Dvorák’s last and arguably greatest quartet is a challenge for even seasoned groups. Composed in the autumn of 1895, it is full of the joy he felt on returning to Bohemia after three years working in New York. But alongside the high spirits, a profound contemplative tone is struck in the slow movement. The Wihan Quartet gives a deeply considered ensemble performance. The sweetness of tone achieved in the Adagio is remarkable and the first movement has irresistible impetus. There might have been more abandon in the outer sections of the Scherzo and a little more fire in the finale, but overall this is a very fine performance.
Janáček’s First String Quartet is also given a handsome reading with superbly poised handling of the rhythm in the second movement and some soulful viola tone in the third; while the playing could never be accused of undue restraint, their approach to the work lacks the visceral drama of, for example, the kampa Quartet on Supraphon. But along with a heartfelt rendition of Suk’s Meditation on the St Wenceslas Chorale, this CD shows the Wihan Quartet to be in fine form; it is a pity that the recording, though well balanced, did not provide more depth of sound.