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Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

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Antonín DVOŘÁK (1841-1904)
String Quartet in F, Op. 96, American (1893) [25’44].
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-97)
String Quartet in C minor, Op. 51 No. 1 (1865-73) [31’04]
Škampa String Quartet (Pavel Fischer, Jana Lukášova, violins; Radim Sedmidunský, viola; Jonáš Krejčí, cello)
Rec Domovina Studio, Prague, on April 30th and June 28th-29th, 1998. DDD
SUPRAPHON SU3380-2 [56’54]

The Škampa Quartet is quite an ensemble. They are quite obviously (and literally) at home in the music of Dvořák. This quartet followed chronologically on from the Ninth Symphony, but the more intimate sphere of chamber music led Dvořák to make a more personal and less dramatic statement. The composer’s nostalgia for his homeland must be heard within the context of the excitement of enjoying his surroundings, something the Škampa Quartet realises full well. The longing mood is presented without lingering indulgence.

The first movement is smooth and confident (track 1), while the Lento shows the quartet’s warm sound and their keen sense of balance and close rapport. The recording helps, in that while it is full, all the details come easily through, helping the music to move inevitably onwards. The Molto vivace third movement’s opening is delicately pointed, the Quartet’s highly developed sense of rhythm a joy (track 3). This in fact prepares the ground for the infectious finale, where a sense of fun in the dance rhythms prevails. A superb performance.

The Brahms makes for an ideal companion. The Škampa Quartet changes, chameleon like, into a highly-tensile group for the energy-ridden opening (Track 5): this concentration is to permeate the entire movement. The Romanze second movement (Poco adagio) acts as the perfect contrast (and the quartet plays with a true pianissimo). This is an enormously rewarding performance which obviously stems from prolonged study of the musical text.

Unhesitatingly recommended.

Colin Clarke


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