Dvorak: String Quintet in G, Op. 77; Piano Quintet No. 2 in A, Op. 81

COMPOSERS: Dvorak
LABELS: Supraphon
ALBUM TITLE: Dvorák
WORKS: String Quintet in G, Op. 77;
Piano Quintet No. 2 in A, Op. 81

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PERFORMER: Laurène Durantel (bass), Kathryn
Stott (piano); ?kampa Quartet

CATALOGUE NO: SU 3909-2
Dvo?ák’s ‘Double Bass’ Quintet, from the mid 1870s, along with the Fifth Symphony and E major String Serenade, benefits from the crystalisation of his mature style. Full of delightful lyrical detail, the Scherzo, with its anticipation of Dvo?ák’s ‘American’ colouring, and the slow movement, constantly veering toward the melancholy, are particularly winning. The ?kampa Quartet have an enviable reputation for considered interpretations which always generate a strong feeling of immediacy. Although they do not include the extra slow movement, which Dvo?ák later jettisoned, this superb performance goes very much to the head of the field.

The reading of the Piano Quintet is much less conclusively satisfying. Composed on the rebound from an attempt to revise an earlier work, Dvo?ák’s Second Piano Quintet is one of his most perfect chamber works blending lyricism and passion with clear developmental argument. Part of the problem is the recording: while it served the String Quintet very well, it tends to make the piano sound overly brittle and the balance is awry, notably with a less than prominent opening cello solo. Interpretatively, there are moments of brusqueness, such as in the link between the penultimate fast interlude and the final section of the slow movement. While there are things to admire here, this performance is a fair way behind that of the Gaudier Ensemble.

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Jan Smaczny