Antonin DVOŘÁK (1841-1904)
Piano Quartet No. 1 in D major, Op. 23 (1875) [34:03]
Piano Quartet No. 2 in E flat major, Op. 87 (1889) [37:00]
Miguel da Silva (viola)
rec. 2016/17, Queen Elisabeth Music Chapel, Waterloo, Belgium
ALPHA 288 [71:05]
The Piano Quartet in E flat, Op. 87 is a rather under-appreciated
gem among Dvořák’s chamber works, perhaps because it is so
much darker than the sunny and popular Piano Quintet in A, Op. 81. The
four serious-looking guys on the cover of this disc hint that their
performance may not feature happy-faced smiles and soppy sentiment.
What they offer is a rather cool approach characterized by precise,
The opening Allegro con fuoco has plenty of dynamic contrast
in a cleanly romantic approach. The playing shows the work’s drama,
without any hint of goo. The tempo is a touch deliberate, but it permits
the work’s strength to show, especially at the end of the movement.
The cello sings ardently early in the Lento, whose climaxes
are explosive. The Busch Trio handles the Allegro moderato grazioso
with elegance, resisting any temptation for schmaltz in the trio. The
finale chugs along in the beginning, gaining excitement as Dvořák’s
cascade of melodic invention unfolds.
The Piano Quartet No. 1 in D, Op. 23 also benefits from the Busch Trio’s
somewhat steely, apollonian approach, although the work itself is not
so fine. Like much early Dvořák, this piece is a bit long-winded.
But even in a garrulous mood, Dvořák offers many pleasures. The
Busch players delight in the filigree that Dvořák wrote into his
rather courtly Allegro moderato. The variations dance along
in the Andantino, and the Finale swings. Perhaps the
Busch compensates for the musically weaker content of the first piano
quartet by ratcheting up the charm where it is most needed.
The Busch Trio took its name from Adolph Busch, whose Guadagnini instrument
is played by Dutch violinist Mathieu van Bellen. Pianist Omri Epstein
and cellist Ori Epstein are Israeli brothers, and the three formed their
ensemble in London in 2012. Here they are joined by Belgian violist
Miguel da Silva, in a second installment of a series of discs devoted
to Dvořák chamber music.
There are many fine versions of these two piano quartets. These stand
with the best. The wonderful Domus performances sound somewhat dated,
simply because of the superior recording quality of new versions such
as this. For maximum
adrenalin, try the 2012 Lugano Festival version, with Polina Leschenko
(piano), Torleif Thedéen (cello), Nathan Braude (viola), and Ilya Gringolts
(violin). It sounds rushed at times, and offers less detail, but provides
more thrills than Dvořák’s actual tempo markings require.
In contrast, the Busch Trio’s more careful approach draws the
listener more deeply into the music, still with plenty of excitement.
The Alpha recording is open and expansive, with clear instrumental separation,
a good balance between strings and piano, and plenty of detail. Claire
Seymour enjoyed the Busch Trio’s earlier disc of Dvořák’s
Piano Trios 3 and 4, but complained that the recording favored the cello
over the violin. I have not heard that disc, but here Mathieu van Bellen’s
violin sings through quite well.