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Dvorak: Love Songs, Piano Quintet / Kucerova, Eschenbach, Thymos Quartet


Release Date: 01/10/2011 
Label:  Avie   Catalog #: 2234  
Composer:  Antonín Dvorák
Performer:  Christoph EschenbachAdriana Kucerová
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Thymos Quartet
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews



DVO?ÁK Piano Quintet in A, op. 81. Love Songs, op. 83. Cypresses Thymos Qrt; Adriana Ku?erová (sop); Christoph Eschenbach (pn) AVIE AV2234 (75:19)


The opening phrase of the first love song (“Ó, na?í lásce”) contains an upward leap that Adriana Ku?erová does not quite make, which is a shame, as her renderings of these gorgeous songs are generally Read more fine. She has a lovely voice and finds just the right spirit for each song; the voice is a touch too operatic (she has sung major roles at leading European houses), difficult to maneuver at a low level; when that leap reappears at full volume, she nails it. The more I listen, the better I like her performances. There are moments when Christoph Eschenbach’s accompaniments seem less than idiomatic, but that’s in comparison with such masters of Czech music as Radoslav Kvapil and Ivo Kahánek.


These five Cypresses are string-quartet versions of other songs Dvo?ák wrote for his first love in 1865, at the beginning of his career. Both Cypresses and op. 83 benefit from his nearly two decades of accumulated musical experience and wisdom; the blend of gorgeous melody with string-quartet sonorities is irresistible. The Thymos Quartet supplies plenty of both, always stopping well short of going over the edge to maudlin, always a danger here.


This performance of the Piano Quintet stretches to almost 43 minutes. Slow sections are very slow, while fast ones race excitedly. Nothing can dim the winning charm of this great work, but these extremes do not add to its luster. Recorded sound, both up-very close and overly reverberant, can muddle the sped-up climaxes. The Allegro ma non tanto opening movement is both exciting and wearying. Still, it’s hard to believe that 14 minutes have gone by. It would be a devastating performance live but one hard to live with over the long haul. The opening phrase of the Dumka is dragged out exhaustively, the players wading in molasses. It is again a reading that may work once but annoys on repetition—well before the movement’s end. Eschenbach’s piano shines throughout the movement, as if he were trying to bring sense and control to the performance, but we must remember that it was he who set that opening tempo. The Furiant and Finale go in a more conventional manner. The Thymos has a pleasant ensemble tone but does not evince great discipline; its playing at speed and volume can become loose and wiry.


The three pieces were recorded in different venues, in 2010 and 2011; the first two have no sonic problems. Czech and English song texts are provided. This is an emotional, romantic disc that is hard to resist despite my many quibbles.


FANFARE: James H. North
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Works on This Recording

1.
Quintet for Piano and Strings no 2 in A major, Op. 81/B 155 by Antonín Dvorák
Performer:  Christoph Eschenbach (Piano)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Thymos Quartet
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1887; Bohemia 
2.
Cypresses for String Quartet, B 152 by Antonín Dvorák
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Thymos Quartet
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1887; Bohemia 
3.
Liebeslieder, Op. 83/B 160 by Antonín Dvorák
Performer:  Adriana Kucerová (Soprano)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Thymos Quartet
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1888; Bohemia 

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