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Horizon Funčbre
Leos JANÁČEK (1854-1928)
String Quartet No. 2 – Intimate Letters [24:32]
Franz Peter SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
String Quartet No.15 in G Major, D. 887 [48:27]
Taurus Quartet
rec. Academiezaal Sint-Truiden, Belgium, 2017
ET’CETERA KTC1604 [72:59]

At first sight, the coupling of these two quartets might seem somewhat strange, but they work well together, especially in this wonderful recording. The Taurus Quartet draws attention to there being very nearly exactly one hundred years between the two composers’ deaths, and each of these quartets comes from the last quarter of their output.

The disc opens with Leos Janáček’s string quartet, which is in reality a declaration of love for Kamila Stöslova, whom he had met in 1916 and was thirty-eight years his junior. The original score bore the title ‘Love Letters’ and called for the viola to be replaced by the viola d’amore.

This recording is taut and a little quicker than all the others I have, nearly two minutes faster than the classic version by the Janáček Quartet on Supraphon. The opening section of the quartet begins with the cello, followed swiftly by the violins, depicting Janáček’s first meeting and heartfelt passion for Stöslova. Here I find the Taurus Quartet to be if anything a little too aggressive in their passion. Their playing of the dance episodes, especially the Moravian dance in the final movement, is well-nigh perfect; they bring out the joy of this movement better than a lot of quartets, although some purists might not fing it sufficiently Czech in character.

I feel that the Schubert work which follows suffers from the popularity of its predecessor, the so called ‘Death and the Maiden’ quartet, whilst I have always found the G Major Quartet the finer of Schubert’s two final works in this genre. It is in many ways equally as dramatic as No. 14, a quality that the Taurus Quartet exploit well in their reading. Although they play it slightly more quickly than most performers, the Taurus Quartet still manage to convey the tension and the worry in the work, making this a darker, yet equally compelling, account of Schubert’s final quartet; there is a real sense of ensemble in their playing throughout.

Their notes are intelligent and informative, breaking down the works and giving brief notes on each movement. The recorded sound is good and the disc is attractively packaged. This release provides a convincing argument for programming these two quartets together.

Stuart Sillitoe

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