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Stephen Francis Vasta
MusicWeb International, August 2010

These captivating performances are a salutary reminder that, while Dvoƙák’s chamber music is readily accessible to musicians and listeners alike, it uniquely blossoms when performed by native Czech performers—and, as we shall see, by their well-trained fellow-travelers—who bring it an intuitive sense of expressive phrasing and an understanding of its various components.

The D major quartet’s opening theme, the first thing we hear, underscores the point. It includes a hiccough of a syncopation: hit it too hard, and it impedes the motion; underplay it, and it’s just a distraction. These players articulate it within the overall arch of the phrase, so the rhythmic gesture intensifies the forward impulse as it should.

Such felicities abound in these performances. The players launch all the cantabile phrases with a sure sense of their broad, arching shape. The waltzlike passages—the 6/8 variations of the D major’s central movement, the Allegretto scherzando of its Finale, and the third movement of the E-flat—go with a lovely lilt and swing, and carry an authentic, open-hearted lyricism.

The D major quartet is formally rather interesting. It begins with a fully-fledged Allegro moderato sonata movement, fifteen minutes long. There follows a lovely eleven-minute Andantino with five variations. The seven-minute Finale begins with the brief Allegretto scherzando cited before heading into an Allegro agitato, thus encompassing elements of both a scherzo and a conventional finale. The structure looks as off-balance in the track-listing as it undoubtedly sounds in this description, but in fact the two latter movements constitute a plausible counterweight to the first. The four-movement E-flat quartet shows Beethoven’s influence. The themes are no less fetching than in the earlier work, but they lend themselves more readily to “symphonic” working-out and development, and the whole leaves an impression of greater weight and importance.

Of the players, I was particularly taken by cellist Mikael Ericcson—who, I imagine, is probably not a native Czech—whose dusky, deep tone provides special pleasure on the numerous melodic phrases the composer supplies. At the piano, Helena Suchárová-Weiser spins out pearly, articulate passagework with full tonal weight and “support”, and her well-balanced chords ring out. Violinist Jana Vlachová never quite soars as one wants; her tone is thinner and her articulation less meticulous than ideal. But she’s a stylish and effective player, and violist, Karel Stadtherr, produces a tone sufficiently darker than hers to render their sounds easily distinguishable.

The engineers capture just enough hall resonance to enhance the beautiful playing, but not so much as to obscure it. One would have expected to find this sort of release on an expensive, imported Supraphon disc, where it still would have been a must-buy; at Naxos prices, it’s absolutely a steal.



Jessica Duchen
Classic FM, April 2010

Here they are played by musicians who empathise with every note. This Czech ensemble fills the music with airy rhythmic drive, balancing attack and lightness, melting into the soulful slow movements as well as the nostalgic ache that surfaces so often.



David Denton
David's Review Corner, December 2009

Though he was already thirty-four by the time he started work on the first of the two piano quartets, Dvořák had yet to make a major impact as a composer. Strongly influenced by his native folk music, the first movement’s opening theme was of rustic and naive simplicity, though it allows him to show he was well able to make something from very little. The changing moods of the central movement’s variations serve as both the slow movement and scherzo, a vivacious finale introducing much happiness. Throughout the score the balance between instruments is perfect, with the pianist, Helena Sucharova-Weiser, mostly content to form part of the texture, only emerging in obvious solo passages. Work on the Second started fourteen years later, by which time Dvořák was in the penultimate year of his life. Even then it only came after much prompting from his publisher, which shows he was less than enthusiastic for the genre. Yet the result was one of the great chamber music masterpieces, and made the earlier work more akin to that of a worthy student. From her first entry Sucharova-Weiser makes it clear that she is far removed from the usual dominating ‘soloist’ we hear in other recordings. It is an account that also avoids drama, and dances along in playful happiness before embarking on the slow and forceful Lento. That contrasts with the dance-like allegro moderato movement that follows, and it is with a cheerful disposition that the finale is ideally communicated. The release continues the highly acclaimed series of Dvořák’s chamber music recordings from the Vlach Quartet, their members showing that intuitive feel for the Czech idiom with an unforced tonal quality that is so totally pleasing. I much commend such easy-going performances that have a sound quality to match.






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7:51:25 PM, 20 October 2014
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