> Antonin Dvorak - String Quintets Vol. 2 [NH]: Classical CD Reviews- Oct 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Antonín DVORÁK (1841-1904)
String Quintets Volume 2
String Quintet in G major, Op. 77 (1875)
Intermezzo (Nocturno), from B.19 (1870)
Drobnosti (Miniatures), Op. 75a (1887)
Andante appassionato in F major, B. 40a (1873)
Vlach Quartet Prague (with Jakub Waldmann, double bass).
Recorded in Martinek Studio, Prague, Czech Republic, 22nd - 23rd January (Quintet) and 25th October 2000.
NAXOS 8.555378 [57.35]


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The Vlach Quartet Prague has previously recorded a highly idiomatic and well regarded cycle of this composer's string quartets. I am happy to report that the second volume of this quintet series lives up to high standards achieved by both that set of discs and its own immediate predecessor (Volume 1). The latter successfully coupled his Schubertian A minor Opus 1 with the masterful "American" in E major (Op. 97) and this issue also contrasts early and later material in an equally effective and satisfying programme. The Op. 77 numbering of the main work included here is misleading in that it was originally the Opus 18 and was written much earlier (1875) than might be imagined. That said, it is not a totally unidiomatic piece and its original subtitle ("My People") is not misplaced in that it does have plenty of Bohemian folk inflections in its four movements (the original, earlier additional movement, later dropped, is included here as the charming but fairly insubstantial Intermezzo). As ever with Dvořák, the music is beautifully lyrical and highly listenable but without ever plumbing the emotional depths of the later quartets (the Op. 106, for instance).

If the inclusion of a double bass was perhaps a foreshadowing of Dvořák's later inspiration by, or at least allusion to, jazz, blues and other popular idioms (e.g. in the late tone poem The Wood Dove, as well as the more obvious "American" works), the concentrated miniatures (Drobnosti), for string trio, hint, in several places, more overtly at this side of his musical character. I found these, despite their brevity, the most satisfying music on the disc, with the closing Andante appassionato also being another pleasant but not entirely original rejigging of a section of an earlier quartet.

While this disc does not represent Dvořák the chamber composer at the peak of his powers, it is beautifully performed and recorded and well worth the modest asking price. If you haven't already, buy Volume 1 first or, better still, the Vlach's coupling of the "American" quartet and the Op. 106, but purchasers of this disc are hardly likely to be disappointed.

Neil Horner

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