“Like Schubert, Dvorák turned to the string quartet early in his career. The three complete quartets included in Vol 1 (Nos 1-3) show considerable facility in writing for strings (after all, Dvorák was a violinist), but it took him some time to arrive at a fully idiomatic quartet style. He also had to learn to rein in his natural expansiveness: the Third Quartet spins out its modest material to an astonishing 70 minutes – the first movement alone is longer than the whole American Quartet! The outer movements of the No 4 in E minor (Vol 2) show him concentrating admirably, though the later shortened version of the central Andante religioso is a considerable improvement. So the interest of Vol 1 (three discs) is largely musicological. Despite this, with playing so fresh and authoritative even the impossibly long-winded Third Quartet has rewards to offer. Each performance has a strong sense of purpose, but that doesn't mean an inability to enjoy all those charming Dvorákian byways. Technically the playing is admirable. The enjoyment increases through Vol 2. The violin cavatina in the Andante of the Fifth Quartet has just the right gentle lilt. Listening to the Prague in the first movement of No 7 you realise how what looks on the page like very simple music can come glowingly to life in the right hands – and the way they handle the slightly tricky poco piùmosso at the second subject is very impressive. The finest work in Vol 2 (discs 4-6) is undoubtedly the D minor Quartet, No 9. Volume 3 contains three gems: the E flat Quartet (No 10), the American and No 13 in G major – the outstanding work of the collection. The Prague are very sensitive to dynamic contrast (Dvorák's markings are often surprisingly detailed). There's plenty of fine music on these nine wellfilled discs, all of it well performed, and the recordings are generally creditable.”
“excellent performances and decent recordings. The DG transfers are managed with a nice balance between warmth and presence.”
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