String Quartet in G, K80
String Quartet in F, Op.135
String Quartet in G, Op.106
Wihan Quartet [Leos Cepicky & Jan Schulmeister (violins), Jiri Zigmund (viola) & Ales Kasprik (cello)]
Reviewed by: Rob Pennock
Reviewed: 12 January, 2008
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London
The Wihan Quartet was formed in 1985 and has made something of a name for itself in performing Eastern European music. It opened this recital with Mozart’s early and rather inconsequential Quartet in G. The intonation was all over the place and there appeared to be virtually no rhythmic or tonal variety to the playing.
Beethoven’s stupendous final quartet wasn’t much better. The Wihan Quartet produces a small, sweet and tonally undifferentiated sound – just about acceptable in Mozart but completely inappropriate in Beethoven. The first movement lacked tension, dynamic range, or any sense of conversation. This latter failing was mainly due to the smooth soundworld the quartet so obviously values and cultivates. In the scherzo there was no real attack or use of staccato and sforzando. And while the tempo in the Lento was just about slow enough, the cello’s ineffably beautiful song was inaudible when the first theme reappeared after the central section. Blandness ruled. Unfortunately, the last movement was similarly uneventful and here the intonation problems returned, garnished with wrong notes and ensemble lapses.
Dvořák brought the players partially to life. There was more expressive licence and more dynamic and tonal shading. Balanced against this was the undue prominence of the first violin and, as in the Beethoven, a failure to really attack the music. In the slow movement the opening theme was well phrased, but lacked profundity; the first furioso outburst was underplayed and the codetta brought no true resignation. The scherzo was slack and the trio rhythmically and thematically undefined. Unsurprisingly, the finale was no better, being episodic and completely lacking drive.