BBC Music Magazine

Mon 30 Oct 2006

Per amore di Janácek

Chamber choice nella rivista BBC Music Magazine, Disco del mese - consenso internazionale in Classics Today e Classics Today FranceThe Pavel Haas Quartet is the latest in a seemingly limitless supply of hugely talented chamber ensembles that emanate from the Czech Republic.

As students of Milan Skampa, the legendary violist of the Smetana Quartet, one might have expected their interpretation of Janácek’s Intimate Letters Quartet to be highly indebted to the approach of their eminent teacher. But whilst there are obvious parallels in nuance between the Smetana and Pavel Haas recordings, what is immediately striking about the present performance is its boldness and originality in terms of tempo contrasts, rhythmic emphasis and textural variety.

Not only is the playing beyond reproach on technical grounds, but also, more importantly, it conveys with almost graphic immediacy the searing passion the 74-year-old composer felt for Kamila Stösslová.

The performers demonstrate a similarly convincing capacity to bring imagery to life in the remarkable Second Quartet by the Janácek pupil Pavel Haas. In particular they relish the almost onomatopoeic representation of a creaky horse and cart in the second movement, the exuberant rhythmic brashness of the finale where a solo percussionist enters the fray delineating popular dance rhythms of the 1920s, and at the opposite end of the emotional spectrum the wonderfully atmospheric portrayal of the Moravian landscape in the opening.

Comparison with the highly respectable release from the Kocian Quartet on Praga Digitals, which also features Haas’s other two quartets, confirms that the present performers project the music in a more vivid manner and enjoy the benefits of superior sound. Hopefully the success which this recording surely deserves will persuade Supraphon to issue a companion disc in which the other quartets by their namesake are coupled with Janácek’s First Quartet. Time will tell.
Erik Levi