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The D minor quartet was dedicated to Brahms and involved a fascinating exchange of letters. The older man was not uncritical: 'You write rather hurriedly. When you are adding the numerous missing sharps, flats and naturals, then it would be advisable to look a little more closely at the notes themselves, and at the part-writing, etc.' Dvorák obliged: 'indeed it was my sacred duty to present to so great a master a work which conforms, if not in every respect, at least (forgive my lack of modesty) in many, to the demands which may be made on a work of art'. This quartet, too, was tinged by family sadness: the death of a son and second daughter left the Dvoráks for the moment childless. The start of the work sets the scene [listen -- track 1, 0:02-1:08]. The tone colours of the Kocian players blend effortlessly, and indeed the only criticism of so much beautiful sound is a slight hint of blandness and monotony. The start of the Adagio, magical with all the instruments muted, suggests that Dvorák would rather be writing a sextet. But gradually he turns to quintet layout before finally deciding it's a quartet. The range of textures throughout this movement is indeed wondrous [listen -- track 3, 6:15-7:16]. Brahms should have been very flattered.

Copyright © 25 June 2003 Robert Anderson, London UK


Dvorák: String Quartets Opp 34, 80

PRD 250 186 DDD Stereo NEW RELEASE 60'39" 2003 AMC, Paris

Kocian Quartet: Pavel Hula, Milos Cerný, violins; Zbynek Padourek, viola; Václav Bernásek, cello

String Quartet No 9 in D minor Op 34 B75; String Quartet No 8 in E Op 80 B57



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