Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Dvořák / String Quartet No. 14 in A-flat major, Op. 105 (Cleveland Quartet)

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Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904)
String Quartet No. 14 in A-flat major, Op. 105, B. 193 (1895)

00:00 - Adagio, ma non troppo - Allegro appassionato
07:28 - Molto vivace
13:51 - Lento e molto cantabile
22:16 - Allegro, non tanto

Performed by the Cleveland Quartet (Telarc, 1991).

"The A-flat Quartet is among Dvořák's most consistently inspired works. His masterful control of far-reaching harmonic connections--linked through the parallel major and minor modes, learned from the music of Schubert--gives the work a special nostalgic character. A slow introduction in A-flat minor begins with a turn figure that will characterize much of the movement; each voice enters, one after the other, from the bottom up. The melodic turn and the chromatic harmonic colorations recall Dvořák's former infatuation with Wagner, but now it is completely assimilated into his own personal style. The phrase rises and intensifies until the Allegro appassionato bursts forth in A-flat major. The turn figure recurs as a central element of the main theme. The opening two themes play a considerable role in the development, but seem at first to be absent from the recapitulation. Dvořák recalls them, in a nostalgic way, in the coda before driving to a swift conclusion.

The F-minor scherzo that follows is the glory of the quartet, a splendid furiant (a typical Czech dance type characterized by alternations of 3/2 and 3/4 patterns). It is bold and vigorous, filled with a splendid braggadocio. The trio is more lyrical and subdued; it contains a melody reminiscent of an aria from Dvořák's opera 'The Jacobin.' The slow movement, in F major, opens with a straightforward lyrical melody supported by a gentle accompaniment building to a substantial climax. The middle section, characterized by throbbing triplets, offers a strong contrast in its chromatic intensity. At the repetition of the opening theme, Dvořák offers a richly decorated rescoring of the material. 

The opening bars of the finale provide a transition between the key of the third movement and the home A-flat of the finale, while introducing one of the most important thematic figures of this spirited movement. Despite moments of relaxation, the energy rarely slackens and the sixteenth-note figures recur and build until they race to the climactic conclusion." - Steven Ledbetter

Painting: Low Tide (1907), Tavík František Šimon

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