Dvořák's music certainly needs no introduction but while his symphonic and choral works are hugely popular, his chamber output still suffers from a slight lack of appreciation. So this CD is not only timely, but also of great importance, as it brings into the limelight two of Dvořák's most delectable chamber compositions. The String Quintet in G was written in 1875 during a vital period when the composer was struggling to make ends meet.
With the help of Brahms, Dvořák succeeded in gaining a annual stipend from the Vienna Education Ministry and the panel's award of 400 Gulden improved Dvořák's plight no end. The winning Quintet was performed in Prague the following year, but Simrock only published it 12 years later. This led to its being misleadingly labelled as Op. 77 when in fact the composer considered it as his Op. 18.
The Sextet in a was written in 1878 when Dvořák's inspiration was at its height; in fact he had just composed his first set of Slavonic Dances which took Europe by storm. Both works contain music of sublime beauty and are landmarks in Dvořák's compositional career. In the Quintet, the composer's maturity is very evident, particularly in the many contrasting moments of dark emotional crises and strong optimism.
The Sextet is saturated with Czech rhythms and the second and third movements are a Dumka and Furiant respectively. In it, for the first time, Dvořák displays his fervent love for his country and it was his first work to be performed outside Bohemia and gain him international recognition.
The Nash Ensemble is a persuasive advocate of this music and they are particularly successful in communicating the passionate flow of ideas that permeate these hand-on-heart pieces. The consistently excellent sound completes a fine issue that should go a long way to re-establish these works in the listener's affections.
Copyright © 2005, Gerald Fenech