Notes and Editorial Reviews
opp. 44/1; 44/3; 81/1, 2
PRAGA PRD/DSD 250269 (70:28)
“The excellent Zemlinsky Quartet (violinists Franti?ek Sou?ek and Petr St?ížek, violist Petr Holman, and cellist Vladimír Fortin),” I began in
34:2, where I reviewed another of its Mendelssohn quartet discs. The same beginning, and the same conclusion, follow for the current disc.
The very popular and exuberant D-Major Quartet (op. 44/1) and its more reserved, underappreciated sibling (op. 44/3) are coupled with two of the four earlier quartet movements published as op. 81. The D Major is afforded exemplary treatment, with the exuberances of the first and last movements contrasted with the grace of the second movement and the expressiveness of the third movement. The op. 44/3 quartet has qualities more subtle than its companion, but very seductive qualities nonetheless. The Scherzo is not of the gossamer variety associated with Mendelssohn, but rather has an aura of excitement brought out by the ensemble’s incisive playing. Its playing in the final two movements, especially in the songful Adagio, continues to be exemplary.
This Zemlinsky disc complements the cooler approach to these quartets by the Emerson String Quartet and the more personal approach by the Pacifica String Quartet by combining preciseness of articulation—a “coolness”—with restrained but discernable emotion. The performances on this disc are distinctive.
The Zemlinsky Quartet, founded in 1994 as the Penguin Quartet, maintains the excellence associated with the Czech string quartet tradition. The Zemlinskys received the Alexander Zemlinsky Advancement Award, marking just the fourth time the prize has been awarded by the board of the Alexander Zemlinsky Foundation. Among the board members are Christoph von Dohnányi and James Levine.
As I said in my previous review, “Based on the excellent playing here—excellent intonation, clarity of line, and either passion or agitation when called for in these quartets—the [Zemlinsky Award] was well deserved. And also well deserved for collectors will be possession of this CD.”
FANFARE: Burton Rothleder
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