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Date: 12 October 2004 at 20.00 Venue: The Vancouver Playhouse

Reviewer: J. H. Stape



Prazák Quartet

Janácek String Quartet, No. 1 "The Kreutzer" | Dvorák String Quartet in C major, Op. 61 | Dvorák Piano Quintet in A major, Op. 81

1st Violinist: Vaclav Remes 2nd Violinist: Vlastimil Holek Cellist: Michal Kanka Violist: Josef Kluson Piano: Robert Silverman

Prazak QuartetContrary to legend, lightning can strike twice. The second concert of the Friends of Chamber Music 2004-05 season featured the Prazák Quartet joined by Vancouver-based Robert Silverman for the Dvorak's Piano Quartet for an evening of simply splendid music-making. And for what a dishy repertoire as well, with the Czechs laying authoritative claim on their national musical tradition.

Inspired by Tolstoy's short story of marital unhappiness, from which it takes its name, the four movements of Janácek's String Quartet, No. 1, all marked con moto bristle with neurosis, agitation, and stress. The moments of occasional harmony, sometimes derived from folk material, tend to be ironic or parodic, not so much longings for balance but caricatures of it. Not programmatic but borrowing from a narrative impulse, the sonata is shaped dramatically, with Janácek's experience in writing opera spilling over into this more intense form. Jumpily nervous, sorrowful, and anguished, this edgy work was given a masterly performance of finely developed details and dark-honey tones. The interior drama was brought out with great effectiveness.

The light, bright opening of Dvorák's String Quartet in C major, Op. 61, announcing by contrast that "all's right with the world," lead into diverse thematic material of strongly marked melodic character. The movement brought out exceptional beauty of tone from the Prazák. The Adagio of song-like character wandered rhythmically as if trying to avoid over-introspectiveness, with harmony and serenity delicately developed through the taut playing. The Scherzo was nothing less than an effervescent Czech hoedown, with swirling dance motifs given sophisticated development. The even more exuberantVivace close to the sonata, with its mercilessly rapid tempi, conveyed youthful high spirits and joy without descending into happy-clappy banality.





There is nothing quite like a masterpiece, and the best was indeed saved for last, with Dvorák's Piano Quintet in A major, Op. 81, receiving a dazzling rendition, not so much played as resplendently caressed into vibrant life.The lyrical opening Allegro and the soulfully Slavic dumka followed by a frantic scherzo of the toe-tapping variety, closes with a headlong rush. The playing appeared effortless, was confident, and revelatory, with Robert Silverman characteristically giving full measure and sensitive tone. The collaboration was a made-in-heaven one, the five musicians involved in genuine music-making, having a good time while giving much pleasure to an audience that should have, but sadly did not, burst the confines of The Vancouver Playhouse. The bravi that greeted their fine performance, and the audience's hushed intensity was by way of thanks for work wonderfully done.

Well established on the international chamber music circuit, the Prazák, was at the very top of its form, and the quartet's return to Vancouver already a highlight of the just opened music season.

2004 J. H. Stape