St. Petersburg String Quartet

Dvorák: "American" Quartet, Op. 96: Mendelsohn: Quartet No. 2, Op. 13

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Dvorák: "American" Quartet, Op. 96: Mendelsohn: Quartet No. 2, Op. 13 Review

by James Leonard

When this ensemble was founded in 1985, the name came from the city the members lived in -- hence, the Leningrad String Quartet. When this ensemble celebrated its 20th anniversary by recording this disc, it had a new name that came from the city it was then based in, so the St. Petersburg String Quartet. Does the name change make a difference? No, of course, not: trained under the Taneyev Quartet at the then Leningrad Conservatory, the St. Petersburg String Quartet is a good old-fashioned Soviet-Russian group with a rich tone, a lush ensemble, a lively sense of rhythm, and a deep feeling of emotionality. In this program joining Mendelssohn's A minor Quartet with Dvorák's "American" Quartet and, as an encore, the famous Andante cantabile from Tchaikovsky's D major Quartet, the St. Petersburg turns in strong, sweet, and slightly sentimental performances that sound quintessentially Slavic in character. Some might object, in fact, and think the Mendelssohn is too Slavic -- the reserved emotionality and the textural lucidity essential to Mendelssohn's string quartet writing is not particularly manifest in the St. Petersburg's performance. But surely fewer will take issue with this affectionate Dvorák, especially in the radiant Lento, and certainly no one could disagree with such a passionate account of the Andante cantabile. Captured in close but atmospheric sound by Marquis, this disc will please fans of the St. Petersburg String Quartet.

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