Haydn, Bacewicz, Dvořák: String Quartets - Szymanowski Quartet
Avie Records AV2092
Classical - Chamber
Haydn: String Quartet in C major Op. 54 No. 2, Bacewicz: String Quartet No. 4, Dvořák: String Quartet No. 14 in A flat major Op. 105
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Review by John Broggio - June 16, 2006
Buyer's beware with this disc; the Haydn quartet I found to be seriously lacking in self-effacing musicianship. Fortunately the rest fares much better indeed and the sound is remarkably good from Avie.
The Haydn is played with a sense of style - however I find it hard to recognise it as any sort of convincing or Haydnesque style at all. There are pauses, ritardando's and other instabilities in the pulse of the first movement that belies everything that Haydn tries to achieve in this music and certainly is not called for in any manuscript that I have seen much before late Brahms! This is a great shame as the ensemble is very good and, unlike the Lindsay Quartet, in tune. Fortunately the slow movement is not treated so casually by the Szymanowski Quartet and the interpretation picks up in musical interest for me here and they manage to transport the interest over into the Menuetto. The finale is dominated by a slow "introduction" before the irrepressible spirit of Haydn's faster music takes over which is well captured by the Szymanowski's before returning to the adagios material (a most unusual ending).
The most modern quartet, by Grazyna Bacewicz (1909-1969), is sandwiched in between much more familiar territory and I have to say that from this evidence I would like the possibility of exploring more of her music. The music itself could almost be a direct response to Haydn's music and is very emotionally powerful, not abstract or cold like much of C20 music. The performances sound very convincing and are an appropriate demonstration of the flexibility of ensemble that this young quartet clearly enjoy.
To complete this generously filled disc, we are treated to what is arguably Dvorák's greatest quartet (and certainly my favourite to play). The music is played in exactly the way the Haydn wasn't - with great spirit, sensitivity to and a relaxed feel for (potentially) very "natural" sounding music. This performance is a joy to listen to and I find myself returning to it time and time again.
The recording is uniformly superb - every note is crystal clear and the timbre of the strings is most beautifully presented (and the Szymanowski Quartet do have a timbre to be proud of!) The MCH layer is most realistically balanced - the walls just drop away and all you can hear is wonderful string sounds...
Overall, as a début, this is a good achievement but I hope that the Szymanowski Quartet avoid the Classical repertoire for the time being as their talents are currently best employed in the late-Romantic and C20 fields from the evidence presented here.
Copyright © 2006 John Broggio and HRAudio.net