Cecilia String Quartet

Dvorák: Quartet, Op. 106; 6 Cypresses; 2 Waltzes

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The Cecilia Quartet, a group of young players based in Toronto, has gained positive notice for strong performances in music of various eras. Although containing works exclusively by Dvorák, this Analekta-label release has a similar virtue. In place of the usual pairing of late Dvorák string quartets, which are as dense and complex as anything he ever wrote, the Cecilia Quartet opts for an arch-shaped program, framing the String Quartet No. 13 in G major, Op. 106, Dvorák's penultimate string quartet and arguably the summation of his chamber music, with two delightful lighter pieces. Cypresses (tracks 1-6) are arrangements of romantic songs about nature that the composer wrote for the older sister of his eventual wife, Anna. Transferred to string quartet they show the contrapuntal depth in Dvorák's seemingly melodic writing, and the Cecilia Quartet captures their charm. In the String Quartet No. 13 itself they deliver a crisp, tense performance, not losing momentum in the highly lyrical but perilously extended melodic utterances of the slow movement. The program ends with a pair of sizable waltzes from the middle part of Dvorák's career; the lightest works on the program, they are little heard and could fit into an all-waltz program profitably. The biggest negative is the overbright sound of Koerner Hall at Toronto's Royal Conservatory of Music. Otherwise, a promising outing from this rising Canadian group.

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