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The Dante Quartet draw out the emotions from Sibelius and Smetana's string quartets
Composer: Smetana, Sibelius
Repertoire: String Quartets No.1 ‘From My Life’ (Smetana); String Quartet in D minor, ‘Voces Intimae’ (Sibelius)
Artists: Dante Quartet
Label: Hyperion CDA 67845
The Music: Sibelius and Smetana hailed from different eras and different countries, yet they are a formidable pairing and both were preoccupied with highly individual sounds that are infused with musical nationalism (respectively Finnish and Czech). Their string quartets offer their most personal and concentrated thoughts. Sibelius’s ‘Voces intimae’ and Smetana’s ‘From my life’ go further, both being directly autobiographical.
The Performance: The Dante Quartet has developed into a force to be reckoned with, bringing together four well-established, experienced and intelligent chamber musicians (the first violin, Krysia Osostowicz, for instance, is a veteran of the much-loved Domus). Each player contributes bag-loads of personality, drawing out the chill winds of Sibelius and the earthy rhythms of Smetana’s Czech polkas, against which the onset of the composer’s hearing-loss – depicted by a high-pitched violin whine – is all too heart-rending. They do, though, become slightly bogged down in the earthiness and the Smetana could have jumped up as well as down more often.
The Verdict: A very fine disc that paints its intense emotional content in suitably strong colours, though not every turn quite takes off and flies.
Want More? Hear the Dante Quartetina glorious disc of Franck and Fauré (Hyperion CDA67664). Or Debussy and Ravel (Hyperion CDA67759).