Pavel Haas Quartet at Wigmore Hall – Martinů & Dvořák and Schumann’s Piano Quintet with Denis Kozhukhin

String Quartet No.3
String Quartet in D minor, Op.34
Piano Quintet in E flat, Op.44

Pavel Haas Quartet [Veronika Jarůškova & Marek Zeiwbel (violins), Radim Sedmidubský (viola) & Peter Jarůšek (cello)] with Denis Kozhukhin (piano)

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: 26 May, 2016
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

Pavel Haas QuartetPhotograph: Marco BorggreveBohuslav Martinů completed his String Quartet No.3 in 1929. It’s from his extended stay in Paris. The three movements are pithy, the whole playing for fifteen minutes or so. Opening with effects (such as strumming and col legno) the first movement forms quickly into folksy exuberant life, al fresco music with a soul. The slow movement is dark and intense, only finding some sort of resolution with the ultimate chord, and which is countered by the rapidity of the Finale. This high-energy, shapely and interactive performance from the Pavel Haas musicians was of the first order.

So too of the Dvořák, dreamy and lyrical in the first instance, suggestive of Mendelssohn, but with gathering strength of purpose and until something give-away Bohemian turns up. As ingratiating as the second movement is, a charming Polka, it seems a little long, and the Finale is less than inspired, rather gallumphing – this despite the Haas members’ excellence and commitment –; however the Adagio was spellbinding, the instruments muted for twilight musings, some enchanted evening.

There is no doubting the masterpiece status of Schumann’s Piano Quintet, given a majestic outing with Denis Kozhukhin. He was assured and accommodating, although (and with the lid of his instrument on its highest stick) there were times when the piano was a little dominating, and one might have liked greater light, shade and quietness from the strings. Nevertheless, the poise, animation and caressing that hallmarked this reading held the attention, the players’ response to Schumann’s purpose, melancholy, impassion and ultimate determination being impressive, so too their teamwork. It is invidious to pick out one musician, all of them stars, but Radim Sedmidubský (normally to be found in the Škampa Quartet) was consistently ear-catching with his lustrous tone.

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