Antonín DVOŘÁK (1841-1904)
Six Cypresses from B152 [14:21]
String Quartet No.13 in G major, Op. 106, B192 [36:59]
Two Waltzes from Op 54, B105 [6:38]
Cecilia Quartet (Min-Jeong Koh, Sarah Nematallah (violins), Caitlin Boyle (viola), Rachel Desoer (cello)).
rec. 20-23 December 2011, Koerner Hall, Royal Conservatory of Music, Toronto, Canada
ANALEKTA AN 2 9892  [57:58]
The young, rising Cecilia String Quartet deliver a knockout performance of Dvořák’s thirteenth string quartet. This is a reading of incredible individuality and it sounds like nobody else’s, which for such a popular and beloved piece is really saying something. These four women are unafraid to be bold, adventurous, different: the first movement has a symphonic sense of drama, the adagio’s many gear-shifts feel natural and are spurred on by truly impassioned playing. Throughout there are tiny touches - portamento here, the slightest pause to linger on a turn of phrase there - which set the Cecilia Quartet apart without ever making them sound perverse or wilful. The final coda is a case in point: you might raise an eyebrow at the massive hesitation with which it begins, but then the quartet chugs forward mightily to a mega-exciting finish. In other words, this is a reading in which the risk-taking is governed by good taste. It belongs with the best modern recordings, just shy of the Pavel Haas Quartet’s gold standard. The PHQ are also young and audacious, with only slightly more wow-factor.
The quartet is framed by shorter works: six of the Cypresses, B152, adaptations of songs which are here rendered in an appropriately lyrical, cantabile fashion, and two lovely waltzes, from Op 54, which serve as encores. The sound quality, big and in-your-face, suits the quartet’s personality and presents it in a thrilling close setting. The booklet unaccountably fails to give the names of the Cecilia Quartet’s members, so I have provided them in the heading; actually Nematallah is mentioned but misspelled. The booklet also fails to give track timings, so I’ve listed them below.
Given the rude treatment of these four incredible players, perhaps you should target this as an MP3 download via ClassicsOnline, Amazon, eMusic, or iTunes. It is certainly worthy of your attention for an invigorating hour of playing from a quartet that’s bold enough to sound like nobody else. The Cecilia String Quartet are, along with the Parker and Jasper Quartets, rising stars on the North American chamber music scene. Keep an eye on these young women.  

Brian Reinhart 

A lightning-bolt of a debut from a quartet that has not just dazzling technique but a bold new voice.
from the Cypresses, B. 152 (1887)
2. Death reigns in many a human breast [2:12]
3. When Thy Sweet Glances On Me Fall [2:28]
7. I Wander Oft Past Yonder House [1:46]
9. Thou Only Dear One, But For Thee [2:52]
11. Nature Lies Peaceful In Slumber & Dreaming [2:27]
12. You Ask Why My Songs [2:38]
String Quartet No 13 in G, Op 106 (1895)
Allegro moderato [10:30]
Adagio ma non troppo [10:04]
Molto vivace [5:29]
Andante sostenuto - Allegro con fuoco [10:57]
from the Waltzes, B. 105 (1879-1880)
Waltz No 1 [3:35]
Waltz No 4 [3:03]