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ClassicsOnline Home » DVORAK: String Quartet in G major / String Quintet in E flat major
Lesser known but brilliant Dvorak chamber music
This recording pairs two chamber compositions dating from Dvorak’s stay in America in the early 1890s. Neither is as familiar as his “American” string quartet, Op. 96, or his symphony, Op. 95 From the New World, however they are two wonderful pieces that deserve to be better known and more often heard in concert.
String quintets usually involve doubling either of the violas or the cellos. Dvorak’s quintet, Op. 97, known as “American” and composed the same year (1893) as the similarly nicknamed string quartet, is of the viola variety. This quintet is utterly charming. Each movement has a distinctive character, and together they blend into a work of great cohesiveness. The first movement is lively and lyrical, the second is exuberant, the third is tender with occasional somber overtones, while the finale suggests a Baroque style dance suite and is satisfyingly conclusive. According to several chamber music guides, the quintet makes extensive use of pentatonic scales typical of many folk cultures, and favored by Dvorak who is known to have observed both Bohemian as well as American Indian music during his visit to the Czech community in Spillville, Iowa. This is Dvorak at his most listenable, yet avoids cloying simplicity through its sheer invention. The Pacifica Quartet plus guest violist Michael Tree, blend together smoothly so that no one voice unduly dominates. The recording is technically well mixed so that all voices come through audibly. The third, slow movement is perhaps my favorite of all eight tracks on the album (not least because it opens with one of the violas giving the first presentation of a beautiful melody).
The string quartet, Op. 106, offers a very different approach to this musical material. Although folkloric type melodies are as abundant as in the quintet, they are treated more analytically, according to the classical paradigm of thematic development. To my ear this quartet feels much more “serious” and European than the quintet, but it is never pedantic. The final movement, though still pleasant, is perhaps the weakest on the album, almost as if by then there was not really anything left to be said on the subject.
For another recording to complement this album, I recommend any including Dvorak’s Terzetto in C, Op. 104, for the unusual combination of two violins plus viola (versus the more usual violin, viola and cello trio). The Smetana Quartet has a nice version of the Terzetto, available via ClassicsOnline.more....
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DVORAK: String Quartet in G major / String Quintet...