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Hyperion Records

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Spring Evening, Ice Break (1897) by Hugo Simberg (1873-1917)
Finnish National Gallery / Central Art Archives / Pirje Mykkänen
Track(s) taken from CDA67845
Recording details: July 2010
Potton Hall, Dunwich, Suffolk, United Kingdom
Produced by Jeremy Hayes
Engineered by Ben Connellan
Release date: May 2011
Total duration: 18 minutes 4 seconds

'The Dante Quartet can scarcely be faulted … each performance is eloquent, intense and emotionally gripping … the D minor Quartet has an entirely appropriate earthiness and the urgency of all the fast movements is compelling' (Gramophone)

'By the time of the Second Quartet, Smetana's final madness was almost upon him; the Dante's characterise its rapid mood changes with a cold intensity. This is a splendid issue' (BBC Music Magazine)

'These performances are superb—the Dante Quartet players really have the ability to bring music alive and sustain the listener through these examples of the quartet repertoire that may still be finding homes. Blessed with first-class sound and excellent annotation, this generous release is a winner' (International Record Review)

'The Dante Quartet has developed into a force to be reckoned with … each player contributes bag-loads of personality, drawing out the chill winds of Sibelius and the earthy rhythms of Smetana's Czech polkas' (Classic FM Magazine)

String Quartet No 2 in D minor

Allegro  [4'58]
Allegro moderato  [5'49]
Presto  [2'43]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
In Smetana’s second string quartet, composed deep into his deafness (in 1882–3), consolation turns to consternation. Portending the passionate aggression of Janácek’s later quartets, the opening Allegro vacillates between belligerent outbursts and resignation. A richer harmonic palette, often spiralling away from the music’s tonal moorings, compounds the agitation of the opening movement. Avoiding the innate calm of a slow movement, Smetana continues with a choppy dance. Although it has the pretense of ease and calm, the wide leaps, disrupted rhythms and ‘misplaced’ accents lend an oddly modernist touch. A more soothing melody, first on the viola and then given voice by the whole quartet, has a disarming effect, though it too is not as settled as it first appears. Even the final cadence, resting on top of a secure cello line, feels oddly ill at ease. The third movement is yet more unsettled. A plangent imitative theme grows up from the cello, though it is disrupted by wild tremolandos. With the lilt of a folk dance, Smetana desperately tries to project some sense of classical propriety in the finale. Yet an ever more torrid language undoes its formal modesty. Quite unlike the acceptance of the first quartet, Smetana’s final chamber work indicates a frustrated soul, and one who sadly ended his days in Prague’s Lunatic Asylum.

from notes by Gavin Plumley © 2011

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