2018 Gramophone Magazine Chamber Recording of the Year
Seven years after they triumphed with Dvorák’s quartets, Pavel Haas Quartet are back to Dvorák. For the occasion of recording his quintets, they have invited two guests: the pianist Boris Giltburg (winner of 2013 Queen Elizabeth Competition), as well as one of the PHQ founding members, violist Pavel Nikl. Antonín Dvorák composed his Piano Quintet No. 2 while staying at his beloved summer house in Vysoká in the late summer of 1887. The renowned critic Eduard Hanslick responded to its performance in Vienna enthusiastically: "It is one of his mostRead more beautiful works. A genuine Dvorák.“ The String Quintet op. 97, albeit only six years younger, presents a completely "different Dvorák“. After the Symphony from the New World and the “American” quartet, the string quintet is the composer’s third work written in America. Besides drawing inspiration from the music of the Native American tribe of the Iroquois which he heard in Spillville in the summer of 1893, he built the third movement around a theme that he had previously considered using in a proposal for a new American anthem. And Hanslick’s testimonial? "This is probably the simplest, most natural and happiest music composed since Haydn’s times. The ear enjoys it with an easy-going attitude and the spirit is not bored for a single moment.“ Pavel Haas Quartet is at home in Dvorák’s music – to quote the Sunday Times, "In this repertoire, they are simply matchless today.“
It is the happiest of reunions and their sense of shared purpose is evident from the very start. Giltburg is completely at one with the quartet, who set off full of sighing pathos. From the off, they make the music their own; their sense of story-telling is very persuasive. Another triumphant addition to the Pavel Haas’s already Award-laden discography.
Pavel Haas Quartets Electrifying DvorakDecember 23, 2017By Art Music Lady See All My Reviews"The first movement of the former is almost a mini-drama in itself, vacillating as it does between a dreamy, lyrical melody that sounds suspiciously like Richard Strauss Wiegenlied (although, since Strauss song came later, he was the one doing the copying) and intensely dramatic passages in the minor. The Haas quartet, with guest Boris Gilburg on piano, play this with a perfect sense of the duality of the music and a wonderfully intense attack. At the 8:30 mark, the lyrical theme is suddenly heard in the minor, which completely changes its effect on the listener, and it doesnt last long before the drama picks up again. The way the musicians explode in these dramatic sections is absolutely breathtaking; the underlying motor rhythms taking on a life of their own, driving the music forward explosively. If the first movement sounds like Wiegenlied, the second (Dumka) reminded me of Eden Ahbezs classic pop tune Nature Boy. Its an almost sad-sounding piece, and the quartets treatment of it is sensitive and well-shaded. Once again there is an alternate theme at a quicker tempo, but here it is not quite as fast or quite as dramatic in scope. Theres a remarkable passage where Dvorak changes the key three times in the course of two bars. The one real emotional outburst occurs at the 7:15 mark, the music literally exploding with passion. By contrast, the third-movement Scherzo (furiant) is jolly and stress-free, despite vacillating between the major and minor. The last movement, though ostensibly in the home key of A major, vacillates harmonically in a quite startling fashion. Here the good vibes of the third movement are combined with some minor-key drama, though never quite as angst-filled as the first two movements. The string quintet also sets a mood that seems to be quite placid but bursts forth emotionally as it goes along. This music, however, sounded much more Czech in character to me than that of the piano quintet, which seemed built around Germanic ideas. Here, too, Dvorak integrates the outbursts into the fabric of the music more completely, making them sound (as they are) logical in their progression and development. Bits of the music here put me in mind of the New World Symphony without ever really quoting it. The long central development section, starting around 4:50, was particularly well-thought-out and interesting. In this piece, too, Dvoraks writing seemed to me much more orchestral in its voicing; he seldom plays the violins against the violas or cello, or the two violins against each other. In this respect only the work is similar to the great Schubert string quintet in C. Because of this, it was more difficult for me to gauge the playing of guest violist Pavel Niki since he blended right in with the quartet. The only comparison I can make, since they are the only other performances Ive heard, are to the Vlach Quartet Prague in the string quartet and to both the Vlach Quartet and Arthur Rubinstein with the Guarneri Quartet in the Piano Quintet. Vlach surprisingly underplays this music, making little of both the lyrical themes and the more dramatic moments; what sounds elegant and then explosive in Pavel Haas reading sounds tame and mild here. The Guarneti Quartet sounds lame and klunky in the lyrical theme, and also too reticent to cut loose in the dramatic moments but then again, Ive always hated Guarneris sound (muddy and indistinct) and style (lacking both rhythmic bounce and a sense of forward momentum) in everything they ever recorded (particularly their miserable set of the Beethoven Quartets), so thats not too surprising for me. These are clearly the preferred performances of these works. --Lynn Rene Bayley, The Art Music Lounge"Report Abuse