Dvorak/Schumann

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COMPOSERS: Dvorak/Schumann
LABELS: Arco Diva (dist Czech Music Direct)
ALBUM TITLE: Dvorak/Schumann
WORKS: Piano Quintet No. 2 in a, Op. 81; Schumann: Piano Quintet in E Flat, op.44
PERFORMER: Martin Kasík (piano); Wihan Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: UP 0055-2 131
Usually Dvoπák’s famous Second

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Piano Quintet is coupled with

another of his chamber works,

such as the American Quartet,

but linking it to Schumann’s

Piano Quintet is a cunning move.

Dvoπák was prompted to write his

Quintet as a result of considering

a much less satisfactory work he

had composed some 15 years before,

but Schumann’s seminal Quintet

may also have been hovering in

the background as inspiration:

undoubtedly there are tell-tale

similarities between the opening

themes of both slow movements,

and the use of these melodies as

an emotional touchstone and the

introduction of a determined faster

section also draws them together.

These are pungent and passionate

performances. Recorded in a rather

forward manner, with the piano

sounding a touch hard, individual

instrumental lines have a spotlight

thrown on them, sometimes at

the expense of an overall sense

of ensemble. Nevertheless there

are impressive moments in the

Schumann, not least in the slow

movement; elsewhere, the emotional

contrasts can seem somewhat

extreme endangering a sense of line,

and the scherzo feels hard driven

rather than exhilarating. Much of

the Dvoπák Quintet receives a more

considered performance with a

particularly well-structured account

of the first movement, although it

is a pity that the exposition repeat is

omitted. The slow movement also

fares very well, but the radiant trio

of the scherzo is on the routine side

and the finale rattles along with

little sense of contour or climax.

While there are good things here,

the performance nowhere approaches

that of the Gaudier Ensemble.

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Jan Smaczny.