Prazák Quartet / Evgeni Koroliov

Schumann: String Quartet, Op. 41/1; Piano Quintet, Op. 44

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The pairing here of Schumann's String Quartet No. 1 and his Piano Quintet may not make much sense at first. Why not all three of the Op. 41 quartets or the Piano Quintet and the Piano Quartet? It happens that the two works were publicly premiered together on January 8, 1843, and it's that program that the Prazák Quartet wanted to replicate. Many musicologists have noted that Schumann's writing in the Op. 41 quartets is pianistic at times, in this case, particularly in the Adagio movement, making for another reason to put these two works together. The Prazák apply its usual energy and tight ensemble work to the quartet. Even the opening movement and the Adagio have the Prazák's characteristic sound of the four musicians playing deeply into the strings, but it doesn't detract from the music's more lyrical aspects, those that represent Schumann's Eusebius persona. It adds an intensity of feeling and highlights the contrast between the flowing introductory theme and other material in the first movement. It is also extremely effective in evoking the spirit of Mendelssohn in the Scherzo and Finale. Evgeni Koroliov joins the Prazák for the Piano Quintet, also a well-balanced and energetic performance. When necessary, they are able to recognize not only the piano as separate from the strings, but also the moments when one of the string instruments gets a chance to shine, no matter how brief. Only a pianist would complain that their performance of the second movement makes the piano a supporting player, but the Prazák's and Koroliov's reading is a sound and valid one. Again, it's the Scherzo and Finale that grab your attention and take you along for the ride. They have succeeded in re-creating a historic moment in chamber music.

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