Dvorak: Piano Quartet / Romantic Pieces For Violin

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Label: SONY CLASSICAL
Catalog: SK062597
Format: CD

Dvorák's Second Piano Quartet is certainly among his greatest chamber music works. It overflows with meltingly beautiful melodies; masterfully constructed, strikingly original harmonically, its emotional range encompasses lilting, ingratiating lyricism; sublime ecstasy; and high drama. This performance by four renowned soloists, who know how to merge (but not submerge) their individual personalities into a unanimous whole, is wonderful, with Ax providing a strong, cohesive foundation and outstanding solos from Ma and Laredo. The recorded balance works against the violin, which tends to sound distant, but the rapport between the players is palpable. The quartet is a hard act to follow, though the other two works are inherently more lightweight: written for home use, the Romantic Pieces go from intimately songful to dramatically assertive and heartbreakingly mournful. The popular Sonatina, written in America for the composer's children to play, has a beguiling natural directness. Stern's performance is unduly sophisticated and manipulative; he seems not to trust the essential simplicity of the music to speak for itself. In the Pieces, on the other hand, a little more romantic ardor and freedom would have been welcome. --Edith Eisler

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