Romance. Five Bagatelles, B79a. String Quartet
No. 10 in E flat, B92. Two Waltzes. Cypresses, B152. Piano Quintet in A,
B155c. Terzetto in C, B148. String Quintet in E flat, B180,
'American'b. String Quartets - No. 12 in F, B179, 'American';
No. 12 in G, B192; No. 15 in A flat,
The Lindsays (Peter Cropper,
Ronald Birks, violins; Robin Ireland, viola/aharmonium; Bernard
Gregor-Smith, cello) with bPatrick Ireland (viola);
ASV CDDCS446 [four
Recorded between 1990 and 1993, this box contains Dvorák's major
contributions to the field of chamber music. From the start, it should be
made clear that the sound quality is fairly typical of ASV: somewhat dry
and lacking in depth. It is a sound one can get used to, however, and so
need not detract from the Lindsay's considerable strengths.
The Lindsay's can sometimes have tuning problems live. There is hardly a
trace of this in the studio, however. What comes through is how this quartet
knows each other's playing intimately and react so naturally to one another,
always at the service of the music.
The first disc has the Tenth Quartet (in E flat, B92) as its main offering.
Czech dance rhythms proliferate. The Lindsays project the characteristically
Czech melodic 'flicks' idiomatically. The Romanza is heartfelt. They
excel in the intimate moments when Dvorák thins the texture down to
a mere whisper. The miniatures which complete the first disc are delightful:
The Two Waltzes (originally piano pieces) are a dream and the Five
Bagatelles have the bonus of the Quartet's violist, Robin Ireland, playing
harmonium. The colour is most affecting and the texture is never overcrowded.
The second disc presents Cypresses (straightforward settings of songs,
with a predominantly melancholy strain) and the Piano Quintet in A. Peter
Frankl's contribution makes this a highlight of the set. His intense musicality
shines through and seems to inspire his colleagues to even greater heights,
so that fugato passages are brim-full of energy.
The twenty-minute Terzetto for two violins and viola is more substantial
than its name might imply, and sustains the interest without any problem
despite the lack of a cello. The String Quintet is distinguished by its truly
beautiful Larghetto, but it is in the String Quartets Nos. 12-14 that
the Lindsay's hit top form. Inspiration seems to be in free flow from the
composer, and the Lindsay's obviously find it hard to resist the outpouring
of energy contained in these works. The list of highlights would be long
(too long for a web review), but listen to the Slavic thrust of the finale
to No. 13 in G, the half-voiced second subject of the first movement of No.
12 in F (relish the clean accents of the third movement while you're there),
or just get carried away by the infectious energy of No. 14 in A flat.
The key to this set is enjoyment, a feeling of being privileged to eavesdrop
on this wonderful music and to hear such confident musicians do justice to
This set will bring oodles of pleasure. Guaranteed.