Dvorak - Schidlof Quartet - Gramophone

This is the Schidlof Quartet’s second CD for Linn and, like the first (10/97), parades many admirable qualities. Paramount among obvious virtues is a consistent attention to inner voicing, something that registers early in the Quintet’s first movement at the point where the first violin takes up the principal theme (1'30'' into track 1, then again at 10'55'' for the recapitulation). The basic tempo is fairly relaxed and the long – and musically important – exposition repeat is observed. The ‘Dumka’ second movement accommodates convincing alternations in mood and tempo and I liked the reflective approach to the Scherzo’s Trio, where a crucial key-change takes on extra expressive significance. In the finale, Martin Roscoe’s fastidious piano playing liberates a number of details that other recordings obscure (not least important scale-like passages near the beginning of the movement) and I love the racy little accelerandothat greets the onset of the first subject proper. I also liked the Schidlof’s imaginative suspension of vibrato near the onset of the coda.

The American Quartet is again attentive and full of feeling (note the finale’s yearning second episode, at 2'22'' into track 8). Again, there is a happy ‘lift’ to the rhythm and Linn’s superb recording grants maximum clarity to all four voices. The principal rival version for this particular coupling comes from Sony, as part of its budget-price Essential Classics series, and features Rudolf Firkusny with the Juilliard Quartet. There, the Quintet is especially fine (Firkusny always was in Dvorak) but in the Quartet I wouldn’t necessarily prefer the superfine Juilliard to the conscientious and attentive Schidlof. Price will of course be of the essence, but if sound quality is a priority, then the present coupling should more than suffice.

01 August 1999