Dvorák: String Quartets & Terzetto / Guarneri Quartet

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Dvorák's 14 string quartets stand as the finest and most imposing works in the medium after Beethoven (and until Shostakovich), though the early works certainly vary in quality. But from No. 4 onward, his achievement is mightily impressive and deserves far more attention from music lovers than it usually receives. As with the "Dumky" Piano Trio, the popularity of a single work (the "American" Quartet) has overwhelmed the others, and more's the pity.

How lovely, then, to see Arkivmusic.com issuing this two-disc "on demand" set as part of its larger program of Guarneri Quartet reissues. These are excellent performances, one and all. The group has the ability (similar to the great Czech ensembles) of being able to attack a phrase with sharp, clean rhythms without coarsening their tone or stiffening the phrase, and this is critical in Dvorák. Some examples include the opening theme of the "American" Quartet, or the "hunting" cadence melody at the end of the Thirteenth Quartet's first-movement exposition. The result is stylish, lively, and singing, just as it should be.

The Terzetto, for two violins and viola, also is a masterpiece of its type, astonishingly colorful (given the limited resources) and full of typically memorable melodic invention. Check out the scherzo, with its pizzicato and sul ponticello textures--marvelously realized here. The sonics are a bit dated in the sense that they tend to individualize the four players rather than helping them to blend into a cohesive ensemble, but that was very much the taste in the 1960s and early '70s when these recordings were made, and the ear quickly adjusts. A wonderful reissue for quartet lovers.

--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: RCA 94196

  • UPC: 888880941961

  • Label: RCA

  • Composer: Antonín Dvořák

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Guarneri String Quartet

  • Performer: Arnold Steinhardt, David Soyer, John Dalley, Michael Tree