DVOŘÁK Piano Quartets (Busch Trio, da Silva)
Following their disc of Dvořák piano trios, which Rob Cowan much enjoyed (9/16), the Busch Trio are joined by viola player Miguel da Silva for the first two piano quartets. It beats me why No 2 isn’t more of a staple of the concert hall, toweringly uplifting masterpiece that it is, and it’s good to have this version hot on the heels of the stylish Josef Suk Quartet (A/17).
Compared to the Czech group, the Busch/da Silva tend to be somewhat drawn out in the second-movement Lento, though their approach to the more tumultuous writing (from 2'58" in) is suitably dramatic and there are many instances of characterful playing, such as the cello pizzicato section at 3'47". But for a sense of being led unerringly through the movement, the Suk and the Gringolts line-up from the Lugano festival are both more unerring without any loss of ardour. The Lugano players also tend to be speedier in the relaxed third movement. Here the Busch/da Silva seem to these ears to get it just right, with plenty of colour in the cimbalom-like writing and a palpable enjoyment of Dvořák’s dynamic range. The finale finds the Busch and Suk very much in accord in terms of tempo, allowing this joyous music to unfold with complete naturalness; compared to them, Gringolts et al sound positively brusque‑issimo.
The First Quartet – dating from 1875, the same year as the Fifth Symphony – is much more of a rarity and while it might not be on the same level as the Second Quartet, it is nonetheless an important landmark on Dvořák’s journey to musical magnificence. It was written in a mere 18 days and the Busch/da Silva seem to reflect that energy in the spirited first movement. If the piano doesn’t have the most exciting time of it in the variation-form slow movement, the string-writing is fully idiomatic and the players balance textures beautifully. They’re alive, too, to the scherzando qualities of the finale, a skitteringly bouncy affair. A fine recording sets the seal on another enticing disc from the Busch.