Pražák Quartet

Brahms: String Quartet No. 2; String Quintet No. 2

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Brahms: String Quartet No. 2; String Quintet No. 2 Review

by Mike D. Brownell

Like many of Brahms' works, texture and inner voices are an important consideration when making performance or even recording decisions. Even with only four instruments at his disposal for the String Quartet No. 2 in A minor, there are many passages where the texture is quite thick, even symphonic. For the Prazak Quartet, this texture combined with the sound engineering used for this album yields a significant problem for listeners. Since this is an SACD, there is an opportunity to have a sound that is as clear as day; but for whatever reason, the quartet did not take advantage of this potential. Instead, the performance sounds like it takes place in a high school gymnasium at best, or a small, tiled bathroom at worst. The recording is extremely reverberant, and in texturally thick passages, all that comes across is a wash of sound. Inner voices are completely covered and the cello sounds as if it is playing from a different room entirely. This is truly a shame because other aspects of the Prazak Quartet's performance are quite lovely. The intonation is very tight, tempos are well considered, and rubato is sensitive without being heavy handed. They are simply robbed of their true artistic potential by a poor and unacceptable recording quality.

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