Dvorak: String Quartet in B, Op. 105; Piano Quintet, Op. 81

COMPOSERS: Dvorak
LABELS: AR RE-SE AR 2006-2
ALBUM TITLE: Dvorák
WORKS: String Quartet in B, Op. 105; Piano Quintet, Op. 81
PERFORMER: Psophos Quartet; Dana Ciocarlie (piano)
Composed in the wake of his famous Cello Concerto, Dvo?ák’s String Quartet in B major, Op. 105, was his last chamber work. It’s a piece whose mellow warmth seems to reflect his relief at finding himself back in familiar surroundings following his prolonged stint in America. At the same time there’s a strain of nostalgia running through it that creates darker shadows than are found in the composer’s popular Piano Quintet Op. 81. The Psophos Quartet conveys the work’s various facets well, though there are times when the performance seems rather under-characterised. The scherzo second movement is a case in point: the peculiar flavour of the piece arises from the accent placed on the last beat of the bar – a feature that’s underplayed here.

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The Piano Quintet undoubtedly benefits from a spacious account of its lyrical opening movement, and a fine response to the melancholy atmosphere of the following ‘Dumka’. But again, there’s no getting away from the fact that the scherzo is much too easy-going for a furiant, and the finale is somewhat lacking in sparkle, too. Nor is the performance as a whole helped on this recording by the distantly balanced piano whose sound is devoid of colour and impact, or by lapses in intonation in the violins’ high register. The Gaudier Ensemble brings a good deal more life and polish to the work, especially in its latter half, and only a pedant would object to the lack of the first-movement repeat. The finely recorded Hyperion disc also offers Dvo?ák’s irrepressibly high-spirited String Quintet Op. 77 with double

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