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'... these readings are heartfelt and do not disappoint.'

Smetana's chamber music on the Supraphon label -


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The second movement (a la Polka) is played as to the manner born in terms of authentic rhythmic incisiveness and folksy naiveté. It is, perhaps, a bit restrained in the piu mosso ending where Smetana's recollection of youthful pleasures could inspire a shade more abandon. The Largo Sostenuto, however, is here a gem of quartet playing: immensely touching without ever becoming cloying. The balance between instruments is especially fine when the inner voices begin to spin their own tentative arabesques [listen - track 3, 5.28 - 6.18]. There is plenty of rustic buoyancy in the finale though one might feel that the pizzicato contributions could 'speak' more. The shock of the screaming high E on the first violin (a representation of the composer's impending deafness) is effectively done and the final pathos all the stronger for being a touch understated.

The D Minor second quartet deserves to be better known. The opening Allegro is heavy with yearning that the Panochas capture in burnished colours. They are sensitive to the sense of struggle and resignation in this dramatic movement and their rubato, though fluid, never damages the integrity of the underlying pulse. They are fine on the Bohemian sturdiness of the second movement and find plenty of agitation and fire in the third. The recorded sound is perfectly acceptable throughout and they find a persuasive way to the optimism of the short Presto finale [listen - track 8, 1.46 to end].

There are more monumental recorded performances available and, of course, plenty that are more generous of additional music but these readings are heartfelt and do not disappoint.

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Copyright © 23 July 2000 David Wilkins, Eastbourne, East Sussex, UK






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