'... these readings are heartfelt and do not disappoint.'
Smetana's chamber music on the Supraphon label -
with DAVID WILKINS
As a boy, bursting with musical ambition, Smetana confided in his diary
that he wanted to become 'a Mozart in composition and a Liszt in technique.'
Well, no harm in aiming high, I suppose! Inevitably, such summits were unobtainable
but he did succeed in becoming the father of Bohemian music whose international
popularity now rests largely on the oft-performed symphonic poems that make
up his cycle, Ma Vlast.
The chamber music, however, is far from ignored. Certainly the E Minor
Quartet and the Piano Trio get plenty of concert outings and there are at
least a good handful of worthwhile recordings of both works. The Panocha
Quartet recorded these reissued versions of the two string quartets in 1989
and 1990 - which must have been heady days indeed in their native Czechoslovakia
(as then was). They appear now on a disc of rather miserly length (only
45 minutes of playing time) and with the kind of inadequate booklet notes
that reveal little and where quirky translations can give rise to unintended
hilarity. The performances, though, are strong and imbued with an authentic
Czech spirit that lifts them well above the routine.
The first quartet, subtitled 'From My Life' is a magnificent testament
to its composer's fecund tunefulness as well as his fondness for telling
a story in even his supposedly abstract works. It is immediately clear how
much the Panochas have this music in their bones and at their fingertips.
The opening is vividly appassionato as marked, with the viola voicing
the call-of-fate motif against the cold sadness of the violins' accompanying
quavers. The second subject group has a sweetness which doesn't preclude
the threatening undertones. There is ample dynamism and commitment throughout
- as when the first violin and cello exchange the vital opening motif later
in the movement [listen - track 1, 3.17 - 4.10].
Copyright © 23 July 2000
David Wilkins, Eastbourne, East Sussex, UK
CD INFORMATION - SUPRAPHON SU 3450-2 131
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