DVORAK: String Sextet in A Major; Terzetto for 2 Violins and Viola; Terzetto for 2 Violins and Viola – Matthias Lingenfelder & Jens Oppermann, v./Stewart Eaton & Christian, Altenburger, viola/P. Demenga & Andreas Arndt, celli – Tacet

by | Jun 5, 2011 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

DVORAK: String Sextet in A Major, Op. 48; Terzetto for 2 Violins and Viola in C Major, Op. 74; Terzetto for 2 Violins and Viola in B-flat Major, Op. 75a – Auryn Quartet: Matthias Lingenfelder, violin/Jens Oppermann, violin/Stewart Eaton, viola/Christian, Altenburger, viola/Patrick Demenga, cello/ Andreas Arndt, cello – Tacet 196, 67:57 [Distr. by Naxos] ****:
Dvorak’s first work to be premiered abroad, the String Sextet in A Major (1878) found a sympathetic performer in Joseph Joachim, who opened his home in Berlin to debut this, Dvorak’s largest surviving chamber work. Abundant with melodies as the first movement Allegro moderato is, Dvorak’s insistence on sonata-form to carry the structure fails to find enough in the materials to sustain this (Germanic) formal development. The Slavonic lyric elements would seem to warrant a more rhapsodic–I daresay Schubertian or Lisztian–treatment; obviously, acolytes of this songful work will sharply disagree.
The Auryn Quartet members find gracious complements–especially in the soaring duets between first violin and first cello–in the talents of Christian Altenburger and Patrick Demenga. The interior movements–a swaggering Dumka in 5/4 that broadens to a sweet lullaby in the middle section, and a virile Furiant–have been characterized as “a picture-postcard for Czechoslovakia.”  Razor-sharp intonation and blistering attacks make the Furiant a keeper. The lovely finale takes a theme introduced by Viola I and develops five inventive variations, several pointing to the Symphonic Variations, Op. 78. In the fourth variation we hear echoes from the nocturne section of Smetana’s The Moldau. The culminating stretta and whirlwind coda achieve the symphonic dimension the sextet medium promises in the hands of Romantic masters.
In 1887 Dvorak turned to writing a more elevated form of household music, especially conceived to enrich the repertory for his chosen instrument, the viola. The C Major Terzetto comprises a four-movement work of some technical audacity, featuring double stops, playing on the bridge, and any number of rhythmic shifts and hemiolas that call for metric accuracy and responsive ensemble. The harmonies of the Larghetto movement assume a modal sonority that Suk, Janacek, and Martinu would find compelling. The Altenburger-Eaton dialogues quite arrest our musical attention. A bristling Scherzo (Vivace) ensues, all Slavonic charm. The sophistication of the last movement theme and variations possesses something of Mozart’s economy and eloquence. The recitativo variation for the first violin adds drama to an already lyric mixture.
The Op. 75a Terzetto literally represents Dvorak’s amateur-household version of his Four Romantic Pieces, Op. 75, the better-known version for violin and piano of January 1887. A rocking Cavatina opens the score, gentle in a way that makes Dvorak his own miracle. A sizzling Capriccio follows, a concerted Slavonic Dance with alternately martial and diaphanous textures. The hurdy-gurdy effect adds to the compelling charm of this movement. The Romance requires no apology for its innate grace – another of the composer’s paeans to life. The Elegie presents us with another of those Dvorak epilogues that takes its cue from Schumann’s Op. 23, No. 4 Nachtstueck. Its haunted beauty in graded dynamics and applied pedal, the movement bids us a subdued autumnal adieu.  Recorded in Honrath in November 2010, the engineering by Andreas Spreer is top-flight.
— Gary Lemco

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