GMCD 7179 – Music by Dvorák, Borodin with the St. Petersburg Chamber Players

St Petersburg Chamber Players – Ilya Ioff – Violin, Michael Appleman – Violin, Alexei Ludevig – Viola, Alexei Massarsky – Cello, Igor Uryash – Piano

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American Record Guide July/August  00   Page 96/27

The greatest attraction here is the sound-not that the music itself isn’t attractive as well. This is BIG, bold
sound that is recorded up close. I started by turning it down a smidgen. Then I sat back and listened.

The instruments are very accurately placed. The players are young but very talented. All have won
numerous international competitions and have played with various Russian and foreign ensembles and organisations. They are clearly a group to be watched as they move through their 30s.

While they may lack some of the sober maturity of some of their Czech contemporaries, they are clearly their musical equals. In fact, I truly enjoyed the lively Dvorak; it is large-sealed and beautiful,

The two less-known works of Borodin are good couplings. The Trio in G was written in Italy in 1859-1862. For whatever reason, the composer didn’t finish it but left us the first movement and the first part of II. It is for two violins and viola. The music shows real ability, and one is sorry he left it unfinished.

But the reason that he left it may well be the following work, the Piano Quintet in C minor, which he wrote in 1861 and 1862. This is at least a finished work, though it shows signs of awaiting further revisions. The short first movement contains an alluring interchange between piano and strings. The only recent recording of the fragile but attractive trio. There are at least two others of the Quintet; most attractive is the Marco Polo, but it lacks the grand sound and absolute belief found here.
This is a winning release

Ednomton Journal, Sat, 3 June 2000

Dvork’s folk inspirations shine through
Recordings offer different yet rewarding spins on same piece.

Two completely different spins on the same piece yield their own rewards this week. Antonin Dvorak’s chamber output has never been as popular as his symphonic oeuvre(the piano Quintet and the “Dumky” Trio notwithstanding), and recordings such as these of the second of his two piano quartets show the neglect to be unwarranted.

Dvorak is everywhere and always the melodist, and while the Sony disc, featuring “all-star band” of Emanuel Ax, Isac Stern, Jaime Laredo and Yo-Yo Ma are certainly the more refined and elegant(and more sweetly lyrical), there is an energy and rawness to the performance of the St. Petersburg Chamber Players that gets closer to the heart of Dvorak’s folk inspirations.

The Sony recording features more flexible tempos in the opening movement, while the Guild disc is a mix of fire and melodicism. The tender melody of the Lento is sweetly played by Laredo et al for Sony, while the Guild recording has the piano more forward – to interesting effect. There’s some troubling siccato work once in Stern’s playing in the third movement, and there’s a sense of eagerness with which the more polished and famous players seize on the Slavic quality of the finale. One almost hears the foot stomping in the St. Petersburg quarter performance.

Stern is joined by pianist Robert McDonald for some beautifully expressive Dvorak works on the Sony recording (the Romantic Pieces, op .75 and the Sonatina, Op. 100) while the St Petersburg players put their raw energies to work on some music by Borodin (the unfinished Piano Trio in G and the C minor Piano Quartet)

International Record Review – May 2000

Chamber Works

Dvorák marked the first movement of his E flat Piano Quartet Allegro con fuoco, but rather than being merely fiery this is something of a conflagration. The string players set off forcefully with their octave figure, forte, but when they are joined by the piano in the fourth bar, Igor Uryash interprets the fortissimo as if it were twice as loud as that, and throughout this movement he maintains a violence of attack that does the music no favours. Though a good deal of its nature does depend upon the opposition of strings and piano, this is a dialogue that becomes almost an altercation. Much the same occurs in parts of the finale, and it is in the Lento that the players are at their most responsive. So far from being insensitive to the music, they have good appreciation of its form, and, especially when Dvorák is almost too lavish with his invention in this Lento (‘the melodies just surged upon me’), clear heads are needed.

That this brusqueness derives chiefly from the pianist is confirmed in Borodin’s Piano Quintet, though here he is more restrained. It is an oddly constructed piece, consisting of an Andante, a Scherzo, then a finale that may at one stage have been intended as a first movement. The players bring it off very well, making the comparatively short Andante (just on five minutes) seem a reflective introduction to the liveliness of the Scherzo and the long (ten-minute) finale. If it does, nevertheless, sound unfinished, the String Trio is much more so. Borodin wrote four string trios for the unusual combination of two violins and cello; one is lost, and this is the second, consisting of an Allegro and an Andante with a fragmentary Scherzo (not here attempted). As is now usual, when the pieces get a hearing at all, it is in a version for the more conventional form of violin, viola and cello, which works well. The recording is clear and well balanced throughout.
John Warrack

BBC Music Magazine – May 2000

What an enterprising issue this is: two rarities from Borodin and Dvoøák’s magnificent, though shamefully neglected, Second Piano Quartet. Borodin’s early G major Trio – the second of two – has a retrospective air: though early Romantic in demeanour, hints of Mozart and Beethoven emerge from time to time. The St Petersburg Chamber Players perform this slight work with conviction; the only regret about their rendition is their adopting an arrangement for violin, viola and cello, rather than the original scoring for two violins and cello.

Borodin’s lovely Piano Quintet fares excellently in their hands: the folk-inflected first movement and Scherzo are delightful, and the broadly structured finale (surely intended as the first movement) emerges strongly. Their full-blooded, somewhat soloistic approach suits Dvoøák’s far subtler Piano Quartet much less well. There are powerful aspects to their performance – not least the impetus they generate towards the end of the first movement, but too often they rely on fine, high-profile playing at the expense of ensemble and the chance to look into the heart of this richly expressive work; the slow movement is particularly disappointing from this point of view, nor is it helped by a rather harsh recorded piano sound.
Jan Smaczny



SOUND 3 Stars