This disc was first
issued in 1999 and appears here at mid-price.
The timing is still remarkably low (the
disc is in effect half-full – or is
that half-empty?!) but despite this
these remain eminently recommendable
performances from a distinguished Czech
quartet. They come into competition,
of course, with a host of other groups,
such as the Talich (on Calliope), the
(also on Supraphon), and the Martinů
Quartet on Arcodiva (a MusicWeb
of the Month). That the Panocha
manages to hold its own is all the more
The first quartet takes
its subtitle from Tolstoy's story of
the same name. It is a late work, but
despite this seems to breathe the passion
of youth, a passion that initially struck
me as underplayed in this account. It
turns out this is a deliberate ploy
on the part of the Panochas, for a touch
of restraint underlines the more ephemeral
passages as well as emphasising the
even more overtly expressive Second
Quartet. There are lovely moments within
this carefully considered and interpretatively
taut account. The quasi-improvisatory
cello lines of the first movement and
the tenderness of the third movement
stand out. The obsessive repeated fragments
of the second movement are remarkably
unobtrusive here; the finale is intense,
if not searingly so.
The Second Quartet
late-Janáček language on its sleeve.
Emotions run deeper, especially in a
performance such as this. The first
violin (Panocha) is unafraid to coarsen
his tone when appropriate; the second
movement is almost vehemently insistent.
Panocha again provides lasting
enjoyment with his magnificent high
register in the third movement Moderato,
bringing identifiable pain to the lines.
The way the rustic dance that launches
the finale is presented unaffectedly
is impressive, too, providing no clue
as to the varied emotional trajectory
this movement will enjoy. This finale
is only 7:39, but it feels much more
when presented like this – exhausting.
It is just as raw a performance as that
by the Artemis
Quartet on Virgin, a January 2007
Recording of the Month - there the coupling
A superb disc.