A question about review methodology
Before starting my review, I need to put in a caveat. Usually, in the classical world, I write about music I know well and that I can compared to existing recordings.
So how do you review a work that you’ve never heard before? How can you tell what good looks like?
Well this is the issue I’m facing for this review. Both works I’ve never heard before, and I was suprised to see that neither of the two works even are present in my music library (which I consider to have a pretty decent size).
Well, I’ll move away from best practice here and share my impressions no matter what. You’ve been warned.
Antonin Dvořák & Josef Suk
Antonin Dvořák, the Czech composer (we could even call him Bohemian, in the very original version of the word, as that’s where he was born) has only been featured once on my blog so far. And this more forced by the fact that it was one of Gramophone’s albums of the year I commented about.
Does that mean I don’t like Dvořák? Au contraire! I actually really appreciate this composter. The problem is just that I only appreciate a very small selection of his work.
The New World symphony obviously, although that has been so overplayed I can only tolerate it in small doses. His outstanding cello concerto, that even made his part-time mentor, Johannes Brahms, jealous. His underrated piano concerto. Some of his chamber music.
But there I usually stop. I also only have 32 albums of Dvořák in my library, more than 3/4 of which feature the above mentioned works.
Compare that to more than 200 albums I have in my library for Brahms and Beethoven each. Well, I’m starting to think I’ve made a mistake, and will use my streaming subscription to rectify this, and explore more of his work.
And for Josef Suk, another Czech composer, things get even worse from the point of view of my understanding. A total of 4 tracks(!) in my library, not even one entire album. I really knew nothing about this composer, up to a point that I made a stupid mistake writing about him in a previous version of this blog post that a reader kindly pointed out to me. Let’s just say that Suk was a Dvořák pupil, and clearly influenced by his master.
Well, the good news is, that no matter how well you think you know the space of classical music, there is always more to discover! Get a streaming subscription and just explore!
Josef Suk Piano Quartet: Dvořák Piano Quartet No. 2 & Suk Piano Quartet No. 1 (Supraphon 2017)
So what do you get here?
Well, first of all, very passionate playing. Not a single moment, this music will leave you bored. The most impressive moment is probably in the 2nd movement of the Dvorak, Lento, where you have some truly out of this world movements. But the second movement of Josef Suk’s op. 1, Adagio, comes close in intensity.
A couple of words around the performers: The Josef Suk Piano Quartet is a quite recent creation. It was originally founded in 2007 as a piano trio (then called Taras). They won several prices at competitions. The new name, and the addition of a fourth member to form a piano quartet, started in 2014. They all have a strong background in chamber music. Eva Krestova for example, 2nd violin, was formerly with the Pavel Haas Quartet I’ve praised previously in these pages.
In a nutshell, this is beautiful romantic chamber music that definitely is worth exploring!
My rating: 4 stars