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Janáček, String Quartets / Martinů, Three Madrigals for Violin and Viola, Emerson Quartet
(released on May 19, 2009)
Deutsche Grammophon 477 8093 | 55'10"
Dvořák, String Quartets / Quintet, Emerson Quartet
(released on April 13, 2010)
Deutsche Grammophon 477 8765 | 55'10"
Janáček was represented by his second string quartet, known as "Intimate Letters," for its mode of passionate epistolary confession. The subtitle refers to the billets doux that the elder composer wrote to the much younger Kamila Stösslová: because of his invigorating love for this inspirational muse, we have many of the composer's late masterpieces. Intonation issues continued for Setzer on first violin (especially hair-raising on the first movement's final fortissimo chord, for example) and the rest of the quartet in the Janáček. The eerie sul ponticello solos and the forlorn viola solo were highlights of the first movement, with the second movement marked by a plangent tone, even biting and acerbic. Again, it was the slow passages, with their ethereal effects, that were most pleasing, like the passionate but elegiac serenade of the third movement, here wistful and here anguished. The strident Emerson sound, born of an apparent willingness to push the tone near ugliness for dramatic effect, served the ecstatic conclusion of the fourth movement well. These problems are less pronounced in the recording, which is hardly surprising.
Allan Kozinn, Stirring the Sweetly Melodic Into the Darkly Intense (New York Times, May 17)
Steve Smith, In Dvorak’s Folk Works, Elegance, Too (New York Times, May 10)
John Terauds, Emerson String Quartet makes Dvorák sing (Toronto Star, May 5)
Edward Reichel, Emerson Quartet breathes some life into Dvorak (Deseret News, April 28)
The Emerson Quartet's series at the National Museum of Natural History will continue next season, with five concerts from September 26, 2010, to May 8, 2011. More Dvořák will be on offer, this time paired with Mozart, and Haydn, Berg, Schubert, Webern, Debussy, Bartók, Mendelssohn, Jalbert, and Beethoven will be represented. One of the concerts will feature only cellist David Finckel in recital (January 15, 2011).