Ryba was a prolific Czech composer,
particularly of church music. Much of
his small-scale output now seems to
be lost. Apparently he wrote 72 quartets
but only the four works on this disc
survive. Vanhal and Mysliveček
were known to be influences,
along with Haydn and C.P.E. Bach.
The disc alternates
two flute quartets with two string quartets
and, given the relative paucity of the
former in the repertoire, these are
likely to be its principal attraction.
Mozartís four flute quartets are the
best known examples in the genre and
amongst his most charming chamber works.
These were written about three decades
later in 1811. The music falls very
easily on the ear, Mozartian grace being
much in evidence. Both flute works are
in three movements with the C major
being the more conventionally structured.
The F major quartet begins with an Allegretto
full of bird calls, follows with
a Hungarian theme and variations and
concludes with a sparkling Presto.
It demonstrates more thematic originality
and provides a good showcase for the
talents of Jan Ostrý and the
tonal beauty of his instrument.
Members of the M. Nostitz
quartet provide Ostrý with excellent
support and the complete ensemble also
have two excursions on their own in
three movement works lasting less than
ten minutes each. Apart from Webernís
Op.28, which could hardly be more different,
I am struggling to think of full string
quartets as short as these. Yet it would
be a mistake to dismiss them. The D
minor work opens with a heartfelt Adagio,
indicating not only that Ryba could
write in a profound vein but even looking
forward in style half a century or so
towards Dvorakís early quartets (which
are at the opposite end of the size
spectrum). A minuet follows and the
concluding movement is a dark-toned
scherzo which concludes indeterminately.
The A minor quartet is less of the same,
an even slighter conception which nevertheless
has its moments.
Rybaís music has hardly
been represented on disc previously
but this CD makes a good case for it.
The playing of the Prague-based musicians
is consistently warm and stylish, the
recording very natural and the documentation
good. All round this is a typical Naxos
bargain that will probably delight those
who fancy a lucky dip. Fans of Mozartís
flute quartets should certainly give
this a spin.
Patrick C Waller