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BBC Music Magazine award winners the Dante Quartet return for their third Hyperion recording with the string quartets of Smetana and Sibelius. This group, renowned for their inventive interpretations and sensitive articulation, capture perfectly the expressive intensity of these masterpieces.
Smetana’s Quartet No 1 in E minor is entitled ‘From my life’ and musically chronicles his youth, loves and vocation, culminating with the onset of his deafness. The turbulent second Quartet in D minor serves as a sequel to the first, continuing Smetana’s life story. The musical language is adventurous and unusual, speaking movingly of the composer’s loss of his hearing.
Interestingly, Smetana and Sibelius, both renowned for their skilful dealing with symphonic forces poignantly turned to the intimacy of the string quartet form at specific points of crisis in their lives. Voces intimae is an intense precursor to Sibelius’s tormented fourth Symphony, written at a time of profound depression.
These works give a unique insight into the private musical lives of their composers and are performed by the Dante Quartet with conviction and flawless technique.
Sibelius: String Quartet In D Minor, Op. 56, "Voces Intimae" - 1. Andante; Allegro Molto Moderato
Sibelius: String Quartet In D Minor, Op. 56, "Voces Intimae" - 2. Vivace
Sibelius: String Quartet In D Minor, Op. 56, "Voces Intimae" - 3. Adagio Di Molto
Sibelius: String Quartet In D Minor, Op. 56, "Voces Intimae" - 4. Allegretto, Ma Pesante
Sibelius: String Quartet In D Minor, Op. 56, "Voces Intimae" - 5. Allegro
Smetana: String Quartet #1 In E Minor, "From My Life" - 1. Allegro Vivo Appassionato
Smetana: String Quartet #1 In E Minor, "From My Life" - 2. Allegro Moderato Alla Polka
Smetana: String Quartet #1 In E Minor, "From My Life" - 3. Largo Sostenuto
Smetana: String Quartet #1 In E Minor, "From My Life" - 4. Vivace
Smetana: String Quartet #2 In D Minor - 1. Allegro
Smetana: String Quartet #2 In D Minor - 2. Allegro Moderato
Smetana: String Quartet #2 In D Minor - 3. Allegro Non Più Moderato, Ma Agitato & Con Fuoco
Smetana: String Quartet #2 In D Minor - 4. Presto
5th May 2011
“Different they might be, but the three quartets on this programme share a quality of intimacy and soul-searching that the Dante captures poignantly and powerfully, not overstating the issue but finding a mode of expression that encapsulates shifts of mood...The fluctuations of darkness and light, the juxtapositions of animation and still reflection, are communicated here with palpable heart.”
“The members of the Dante Quartet...offer an intense, dynamic and fully committed version of Smetana's 'From My Life', seizing the air immediately, giving a dramatic, even orchestral account of it...These performances are superb - the Dante Quartet players really have the ability to bring music alive and sustain the listener through these examples of quartet repertoire that may still be finding homes.”
“The Dante Quartet has developed into a force to be reckoned with...Each player contributes bag-loads of personality, drawing out the chill winds of Sibelius and the earthy rhythms of Smetana's Czech polkas, against which the onset of the composer's hearing-loss - depicted by a high-pitched violin whine - is all too heart-rending.”
“there's no grand statement, or positivity here, and that's reinforced by the obsessive way that Sibelius turns around his limited material, and by the Dante Quartet's refusal to glamorise the music. Their tone remains lean, and they don't milk the dynamics...By the time of the Second Quartet, Smetana's final madness was almost upon him; the Dantes characterise its rapid mood with cold intensity.”
19th June 2011
“This is an imaginative grouping: three autobiographical, confessional string quartets from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. [Smetana's] No. 2 is unrelievedly harrowing, written when he was a sick man, and sometimes dismissed as a failure. That is not how it sounds in this committed performance by the Dante, who also make the most of the soul-searching of Sibelius’s solitary quartet.”
“The Dante Quartet can scarcely be faulted in terms of passionate attack. Each performance is eloquent, intense and emotionally gripping...the urgency of all the fast movements is compelling.”
Click on any of the works listed above for alternative recordings.