The Czech Quartet Tradition
WORKS: Smetana, Dvorák and Suk
PERFORMER: Bohemian Quartet, Prague Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: LAB 091-92 ADD mono
The most nourishing re-enactment of echt Viennese emotion features the Vienna Konzerthaus Quartet, whose supremely accomplished 12-CD survey of Haydn string quartets (48 works in all, taken from Op. 1 through to Op. 77) combines intimacy, warmth and a level of musicianship that lifts these wonderful scores into an elevated realm of musical experience. The players themselves were all members of the Vienna Symphony, although the CD notes tell you nothing about them. The same is not true of Biddulph’s invaluable The Czech Quartet Tradition, where composer Josef Suk plays second fiddle in his own Quartet, Op. 11.
The precise context here is the legendary Bohemian Quartet, whose tonal glissades and supple phrasing make the most of Smetana’s First and Dvorák’s American Quartets, while the roughly contemporaneous Prague Quartet are equally cordial in Dvorák’s Opp. 105 and 106. Here documentation by Tully Potter is a virtual dissertation, and a highly readable one at that.