An Uneven Wigmore Hall Recital by the Pražák Quartet

14/02/2012

United KingdomUnited Kingdom Mozart and Brahms: Pražák Quartet (Pavel Hula, Vlastimil Holek (violins), Josef Klusoň (viola), Michal Kaňka (cello). Wigmore Hall, London, 12.2.2012 (MB)

Mozart – String Quartet no.21 in D major, KV 575
Brahms – String Quartet no.3 in B-flat major, op.67

This was a puzzling concert from the Pražák Quartet, both works performed receiving distinctly mixed performances. Perhaps oddest was the opening movement of Mozart’s first ‘Prussian’ quartet. The exposition was strangely unstable, the players seemingly unable to settle upon a tempo, and when finally they did, it sounded far too fast for ‘Allegretto’, more like ‘Allegro [vivace]’. Despite some notably rich-toned viola playing from Josef Klusoň, the reading simply did not hang together, much of the movement sounding not only rushed but skated over. The ensuing ‘Andante’ was much more like it: the tempo worked, and was settled upon. There was, moreover, an apt mood of sweet elegance to the movement as a whole, and a far stronger sense of direction too. The vibrato would have horrified the puritans: good! The brisk minuet (one-to-a-bar, with a vengeance) needed to smile more; it emerged unduly fiercely, a little like a caricature of Beethoven. The high cello line in the trio sang clearly; perhaps it was emphasised a little too strongly, but at least we were reminded of its origins in the Prussian king’s cello-playing. Solos in the finale were better integrated. However, although eventful, it was also rushed, even garbled at times. And that was before I recalled Mozart’s tempo marking: ‘Allegretto’. Grace, alas, stood at a premium.

Brahms’s B-flat major quartet suffered from a hard-driven first movement. The density of the composer’s argument came through, likewise to a certain extent Beethovenian antecedents (especially opp. 74 and 95) but Brahms never benefits from sounding frantic. Richer string tone would have been desirable too. That was forthcoming in the slow movement, which achieved a successful union of gravity and Classical poise. There was now a real sense of where the music was heading, though the journey remained as important as the destination. The third movement evinced nervous intensity and a delight in Brahms’s metrical intricacies and dislocations. Despite a barrage of coughing, this was highly, dramatically involving. A charming traversal of the finale’s variations was generally well characterised, though there were occasions when a little more (German?) intensity would have been welcome; Brahms sounded too much like Dvořák here.

Mark Berry

Comments

Comments are closed.

Recent Reviews

Season Previews

__________________________________
  • NEW! Snape Maltings – January to April 2020 __________________________________
  • NEW! Saffron Hall in February – August 2020 __________________________________
  • NEW! Bampton Classical Opera in 2020 – Gluck’s Paris and Helen __________________________________
  • NEW! Surrey’s Grange Park Opera in 2020 __________________________________
  • NEW! The Leeds Lieder Concert Series 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! Edinburgh Usher Hall 2019-2020 Orchestral Season __________________________________
  • NEW! Lyric Opera of Chicago’s 2020 Ring Cycles __________________________________
  • NEW! Ex Cathedra’s 50th Anniversary Season in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! Geneva Grand Théâtre in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • UPDATED! 2019-20 at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden __________________________________
  • NEW! City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! Zurich Opera House in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • UPDATED! English National Opera in 2019-2020 and New Artistic Director __________________________________
  • UPDATED! ENB in 2019-2020 and Opening of their New London City Island Home __________________________________
  • NEW! Classical Music and Other Events at the Southbank Centre in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • UPDATED! Cleveland Orchestra in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! Classical Music at the Barbican in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! The Met: Live in HD in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • Subscribe to Free Review Summary Newsletter

    Search S&H

    News and Featured Articles

    __________________________________
  • NEW! English National Ballet’s 70th Anniversary Gala Performances – 17 & 18 January 2020 __________________________________
  • NEW! CONDUCTOR HERVÉ NIQUET INTERVIEWED ABOUT GRÉTRY’S RICHARD, COEUR DE LION __________________________________
  • NEW! SOPRANO ANGELA GHEORGHIU IN CONVERSATION WITH MICHAEL COOKSON __________________________________
  • NOW REVIEWED! MATTHEW BOURNE’S ROMEO AND JULIET IN CINEMAS FROM 22 OCTOBER __________________________________
  • NEW! CELLIST JOHANNES MOSER IN CONVERSATION WITH GEOFFREY NEWMAN __________________________________
  • CHORUS MASTER STEPHEN DOUGHTY IN CONVERSATION WITH ROBERT BEATTIE __________________________________
  • REVIEWED! Ron Howard’s Pavarotti in Cinemas 13 July (Preview) and Nationwide (15 July) __________________________________
  • MULTI-FACETED MUSICIAN JOY LISNEY IN CONVERSATION WITH ROBERT BEATTIE __________________________________
  • ‘MUSICAL MAGIC’: AN INTERVIEW WITH VIOLINIST HENNING KRAGGERUD __________________________________
  • CONDUCTOR THOMAS SANDERLING IN CONVERSATION WITH GREGOR TASSIE __________________________________
  • HOW TO CONTACT SEEN AND HEARD INTERNATIONAL __________________________________
  • A Q&A WITH ITALIAN BARITONE FRANCO VASSALLO __________________________________
  • A Q&A WITH LISETTE OROPESA AS SHE RETURNS TO LA OPERA FOR ORFEO ED EURIDICE __________________________________
  • BARRY DOUGLAS IN CONVERSATION WITH GEOFFREY NEWMAN __________________________________
  • Archives by Week

    Archives by Month