Kocian Quartet

Dohnányi: String Quartets Nos. 1 & 3; Ruralia Hungarica

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Though heralded as a national hero in his native Hungary, the music of Ernö Dohnányi is often and mysteriously neglected. Dohnányi was not only an accomplished and well-respected composer, he was a brilliant pianist, a much-sought conductor, and a champion of the next generation of Hungarian composers including Bartók and Kodály. His string quartets provide a microcosm of the composer's development over time. Heard here on this Praga Digitals disc is the First Quartet -- written very much in the Brahmsian tradition -- and the Third Quartet -- still not as progressive as his successors but demonstrating the influence of the next generation of musicians. Performing these underappreciated jewels of the repertoire is the Kocian Quartet, well-known for its masterful interpretations of music from its native Hungary. On this album, Kocian demonstrates just how it earned its reputation: powerful rhythmicity, driven tempos, conservative vibrato, rich, full sound, and a fluid balance between the four. From an interpretive standpoint, the performances here can scarcely be topped. Yet there is something lacking in the playing; intonation, sadly, is unreliable at best. It is especially frustrating to have many bars played perfectly in tune only to have things completely fall apart a few measures later. Listeners for whom intonation is a major sticking point when determining the quality of a recording will be disappointed here. Those who simply want an intense, committed recording of these works and can overlook some blemishes will find it more satisfactory.

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