String Quartet No.14 in A flat major Op.105

Composer: Antonin Dvořák (b. 1841 - d. 1904)
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Composer: Antonin Dvořák (b. 1841 - d. 1904)

Performance date: 30/06/2018

Venue: St. Brendan’s Church

Composition Year: 1895

Duration: 00:37:26

Recording Engineer: Ciaran Cullen, RTÉ

Instrumentation: 2vn, va, vc

Instrumentation Category:String Quartet

Artists: Apollon Musagète Quartet (Paweł Zalejski, Bartosz Zachłod [violins], Piotr Szumieł [viola], Piotr Skweres [cello]) - [quartet]

Antonín Dvo?ák [1841-1904]

String Quartet No. 14 in A flat major Op.105 [1895] 

1. Adagio ma non troppo – Allegro appassionato

2. Molto vivace

3. Lento e molto cantabile

4. Allegro non tanto

On the other side of the globe less than a year after Arensky wrote his tribute to Tchaikovsky, Dvo?ák was Director of the recently founded National Conservatory of Music in New York and homesick for Prague and his summer house in Vyoská. The A flat Quartet was begun in New York before he returned to Europe and only finished after he had written another quartet in between. Because of the delay in completing the A flat Quartet, it became his final work in quartet form.

The Quartet opens with an Adagio prelude begun by the cello, possibly in imitation of Mozart’s famous Dissonance, repeated by the other instruments before being interrupted by a series of dissonant chords.  The Allegro bursts in with a lively, trilling theme from the first violin.  This sets the mood for a sparkling, wide-ranging movement full of Dvo?ák’s trademark dramatic changes of tempo and mood. At the end, the Adagio prelude is recalled once more before the music ends in high spirits.  

The scherzo is one of Dvo?ák’s finest with a lilting dance melody that carries all before it. In contrast the Trio is a gentle romantic song. The Lento e molto cantabile opens with a soaring, rapturous song, soon richly elaborated upon, until it reaches a full stop and an unexpected moment of silence. The cello then launches a pulsating beat as the upper strings move through some richly chromatic sequences.  The song returns in a faster tempo with pizzicato accompaniment on viola and cello, again the full stop is reached but this time the music fades away gradually into silence. 

The finale opens with mutterings on the cello taken over by the upper strings who transform the notes into a busy tremolo theme. There is splendid interplay between these simple ideas as the movement develops into a broad-ranging demonstration of Dvo?ák’s quartet skills as the music dances exuberantly away, culminating in a wild and witty Bohemian coda.  

Ian Fox