The Guardian

Fri 7 Dec 2007

Pavel Haas Quartet (Haas, Janácek)

Haas: String Quartets Nos 1 & 3 - Janáček: String Quartet No 1 - Pavel Haas Quartet
(Supraphon) Pavel Haas died in Auschwitz in 1944, after being incarcerated in the Terezin concentration camp for three years.

He was 45, and before the second world war, he had established himself as the most distinctive of the generation of Czech composers who had studied with Janáček.

The young Prague-based quartet who have taken Haas's name have already recorded his Second Quartet for Supraphon, coupling it with Janáček's Second, and this disc completes their survey of both composers. Written in 1920, Haas's First Quartet predates his time with Janáček; a single-movement sonata form that is often densely contrapuntal and harmonically wide-ranging; it's totally coherent but just a bit impersonal.

The Third, though, is another matter; it dates from 1938 when Haas's career was at its height, and shows how his music had evolved into a language that certainly drew on Janáček's example (including the use of Moravian folk music) but also added ingredients that were totally his own, whether in the highly wrought lyricism of the central movement or the weighty set of variations with which it ends.

The Pavel Haas Quartet give finely judged performances of both works, though their performance of Janáček's First Quartet seems a bit too tightly buttoned to rank with the very best.
Andrew Clements