Notes and Editorial Reviews
The Vlach’s virtues in the Op.18 quartets are ones of mellifluous warmth in the best traditions of Czech string playing. Vibrato is finely calibrated between the two violinists, the primarius and guiding spirit of the group, Josef Vlach, part of a dynasty of great players – his daughter is a leading quartet leader in her own right – ensuring that he and Snítil are in accord. The group didn’t record the six quartets in a particular order, so Op.18/1 was one of the last to be recorded, along with Op.18/6. But each quartet receives considered and refined interpretation. The finale of Op.18/3 is buoyant and tangy, the slow movement of Op.18/1 is ardently expressive with plenty of colour, the interplay between the two fiddles in the
finale of 18/2 is full of playful wit and the Vlach catch that element of village vibrancy in the Menuetto of Op.18/5. Their application of senza vibrato is effective but in the main it’s the range and constant, often quite romanticised application of colour that is their most audible quality. Their elegance is accompanied sometimes by a slightly big-boned approach – parts of Op.18/6, perhaps - but the playing is always elevated and eloquent. They make a truly beautiful ensemble sound with famed violist Josef Ko?ousek and cellist Viktor Mou?ka audible in the balance at all times.
The slow movement of Op.59/1 is well calibrated and is not over-effusive. For all their warmth, the Vlach remains a stylistically apt quartet and their expressive devices are tastefully, modestly and never lavishly applied. This warm but healthy approach applies to Op.131 as well. Intonation is excellent but the Vlach is never gruff or even – when the opportunity presents itself – spiritual, for want of a better word. Their musicianship is probing but not heavenly. They are not at all guarded in Beethoven but equally don’t emote. Their earlier Mozart K421 recording reflects their prize-winning performance at the 1955 Liège Quartet contest. This is the only mono recording in the set of four CDs and it’s just a little glassy but fully captures an affectionate, romantic reading.
The booklet has a pleasing note that briefly but pertinently traces the trajectory of the quartet from formation to dissolution. The analog-to-digital transfers are very successful, fortunately.
– MusicWeb International (Jonathan Woolf) Read less
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