Berlin Philharmonic String Quintet

Dvorák: String Quintet in G, Op. 77

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AllMusic Review by V. Vasan

The world-renowned Berlin Philharmonic's musicians are not only capable of playing orchestral music, but also playing chamber music with great timing, confidence, and technique. This album of three works by Dvorák is performed by the Berlin Philharmonic String Quintet, which includes the instruments of a string quartet plus double bass. Dvorák was a master at string writing, creating lines that sing with expressivity and beauty. But here, there is an element that is somehow missing, despite the great talents of the quintet. The beginning of the String Quintet in G is almost inaudible, but then it blossoms into a lovely, lush, full sound. The timing is spot-on, the galloping rhythm bounces, and the bass is powerful. The violin is more sweet and lyrical in the third movement, where the musicians play with a much lighter character and they die out in perfect unison to give way to the Finale. The performance, though, suffers from a lack of energy that renders the pitches ever so slightly flat. The performers do not play with much vibrato, and this unfortunately does Dvorák a disservice. The fourth movement is a triumph, however, for the musicians are impassioned; one can feel the very bow strokes at the tip of the violin, and the instruments sing out. When it is clear what the BPSQ is capable of doing, one's only wish is that it would have brought this spirit to the rest of the piece and album. The Nocturne suffers a similar fate of feeling slightly under-energized. There is not enough movement within the lines to be satisfying; to be fair, this is probably not one of the master's most effective compositions. The Allegro vivo: (Scherzo) from his String Quintet in E flat, however, is. The violin is the star, but the cello is scored in a way that it adds beautiful depth to the piece. This piece of music conveys something, showing off Dvorák at his best, with active, nicely textured strings. It also shows off the BPSQ's emotional side, which is sometimes missing on this album. It may be that the recording quality contributes to this character.

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