Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Amadeus Quartet
Smetana and Dvorak "American" String Quartets

Every violist becomes aware of these two quartets. Both open with notable viola solos. One of which (the Dvorak) you are allowed to attempt a little earlier in life than the other. The Smetana can appear on audition excerpt lists when a committee mistakenly thinks that the opening volley is the same as playing actual chamber music and not just a glorified orchestral solo.

The performances here are beautiful if not notably different from today's quartet practices. As with everything in our post-editing age, so much value has come to be placed on clarity and precision that young up-and-coming quartets are accomplishing technical feats before not considered possible. But with this comes a loss of chutzpah, where attempts at more musical, expressive playing are neglected in effort to play that articulation perfectly together.
In music-speak, you can't call one wrong; it's just a contrast between a recording made 40 years ago and today.

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