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Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Josef Suk, Complete Works for String Quartet, Minguet Quartett

Yesterday, the in-between Russian composer Liadov was up for discussion, a spanning figure between romanticism and the modern period. Today the Bohemian (Czech) Joseph Suk (1874-1935) gets our attention. He did for Dvorak and the local romantic-nationalists a somewhat similar kind of spanning function in the transition to modernism.

His chamber music is some of his finest work and we get a good deal of it in the new recording of the Complete Works for String Quartet (Deutschlandfunk CPO 777 652-2 2-CD), as played by the Minguet Quartet (with the addition of pianist Matthias Kirschnereit for the "Piano Quintet" included in the set).

What we get are the full string quartets of op. 11 and op. 31, both lengthy and expansive, plus the op. 8 "Piano Quintet" and a number of single movement works for string quartet, five to be exact.

The full quartets are monumental and thematically rich, filled with folk influences and expressive in late romantic terms, bordering at times on chromatic music of an almost modernist sort.

They as well as the other works on the program are played quite well by the Minguet ensemble. The music never flags, showing real craft and expression. The shorter works are perhaps less central to our appreciation of Suk, yet they serve to give us a complete picture. The "Piano Quintet" is a somewhat early work but is good to hear.

For any who responds to both Dvorak and Janacek, Suk's complete quartets will interest you. The performances are worthy of the music in every way. This is excellent chamber music of the period in any event. Recommended.

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