Smetana Quartet – BBC Legends (Dovorak & Janacek) (2006)

FrontCover1.jpgThe Smetana Quartet (Czech: Smetanovo kvarteto) was a Czech string quartet that was in existence from 1945 to 1989.

The Smetana Quartet arose from the Quartet of the Czech Conservatory, which was founded in 1943 (during the Nazi occupation) in Prague by Antonín Kohout, the cellist. With Jaroslav Rybenský and Lubomír Kostecký as first and second violins, and Václav Neumann as violist, the group gave its first performance as the Smetana Quartet on 6 November 1945, at the Municipal Library in Prague. Neumann left to pursue conducting in 1947, at which point Rybenský went to the viola desk and Jiří Novák (who shared first violin desk with Josef Vlach, founder of the Vlach Quartet, under Vaclav Talich in the Czech Chamber Orchestra) came in as first violin.

By 1949 the group had official connections with the Czech Philharmonic. The first foreign tour was in 1949, to Poland, and the first recording was of a quartet by Bedřich Smetana in 1950. Rybenský was obliged to retire after ill health in 1952, and was replaced by Milan Škampa. The performers were appointed professors at the Academy of Musical Arts in 1967. Of their many recordings, those made at that time for German Electrola are considered particularly fine.

For many years this group, which has been called the finest Czech quartet of its time, played the Czech repertoire from memory, giving these works a special intensity and intimacy.


The Smetana Quartet made the third commercial digital recording ever made, Mozart’s K.421 and K.458, in Tokyo April 24-26, 1972. They rerecorded the same repertoire ten years later in Prague.

Antonín Kohout trained the Kocian Quartet (founded 1972) and the Martinů Quartet (1976), though the latter’s members had been pupils of Professor Viktor Moučka, cellist of the Vlach Quartet. (by wikipedia)


Some reviews are a pleasure to write and this is certainly one of them. The Smetana Quartet was formed in 1945 – the original personnel including conductor-to-be Václav Neumann as violist (until 1947) – with the last change in the Smetana’s line-up, until it disbanded in 1989, was in 1956, when Milan Škampa replaced Jaroslav Rybenský as the viola player. During the 1960s and 1970s I – like many others – picked up often ridiculously cheap LPs of the quartet in mainly Eastern European music. I came to admire the players’ unforced musicality, natural phrasing and rhythmic subtlety. This BBC Legends’ release features stereo recordings recorded from 1969 and 1975 – and the sound is very fine. There is a sense of both venues’ acoustic, a natural balance and very fine imaging and resolution. On the down side there are mild patches of what used to be called ‘wow and flutter’. But, unlike some of the Legends’ series, the sound does not get in the way of the music-making and the Queen Elizabeth Hall audience is virtually silent. In terms of technique the Smetana Quartet has occasional problems. Ensemble – by clinical modern standards – can slip, as can exactness of bowing and intonation, but these ‘lapses’ are few and far between.


But when the musicians glide into Dvořák’s Terzetto, the sweet tone is beautiful, the expression urbane and there is a sense of conversation between the players. In this sadly neglected four-movement work the tempo changes and phrasing are natural and a quiet sense of melancholy imbues every bar – irrespective of tempo marking. Janáček’s ‘The Kreutzer Sonata’ – a great piece – opens with beautifully gradated dynamics that heighten the sense of French impressionism. The accelerandos in the Con moto second movement are seamlessly integrated, as they are in the finale, where the opening tempo is a genuine adagio that still moves inexorably forward. Indeed the whole performance captures every change of mood with integration. Dvořák’s masterly A flat Quartet is similarly outstanding, every tempo change is unforced and the rhythmic variation is brilliant. None of the tempos could be described as too leisurely. In the Molto vivace second movement there is a genuine sense of the dance and in the second section there is a disquieting sense of undulating emotion, and the Lento e molto cantabile third movement really does sing at a tempo that makes many other quartets sound self-indulgent. The finale has real high spirits and, as with the rest of the performance, it just sounds right – like any great performance you feel that this is the way the music should be played. So a wonderful CD, which captures a style of music-making that is – tragically – dying out, and an essential buy for all chamber music lovers. (by Rob Pennock)


Antonín Kohout (cello)
Lubomír Kostecký (2nd violin)
Jiří Novák (1st violin)
Milan Škampa (viola)



Antonin Dvorák: Terzetto for 2 violins & viola in C major, B. 148 (Op. 74):
01. Introduzione. Allegro ma non troppo – attacca 4.39
02. Larghetto 5.36
03. Scherzo. Vivace – Trio. Poco meno mosso 4.33
04. Tema con variazioni. Poco adagio – Molto allegro – Moderato – Moderato e risoluto – Molto allegro 5.55

Leos Janáček: String Quartet No. 1 (“Kreutzer Sonata”), JW 7/8:
05.  Adagio – Con moto – Vivo 3.54
06. Con moto – Energico e appassionato – Tempo 1 4.04
07. Con moto – Vivace – Andante – Tempo 1 3.39
08. Con moto – Tempo 2 – Adagio – Maestoso (Tempo 1) – Più mosso, feroce 5.18

Antonin Dvorák: String Quartet No. 14 in A flat major, B. 193 (Op. 105):
09. Adagio, ma non troppo – Allegro appassionato 8.23
10. Molto vivace 6.31
11. Lento e molto cantabile 7.40
12. Allegro, non tanto 10.03




Mischa Maisky – Cellissimo (2012)

FrontCover1Mischa Maisky (Latvian: Miša Maiskis; born January 10, 1948 in Riga) is a Latvian-born Jewish cellist.

Maisky is the younger brother of organist and harpsichordist Valery Maisky (1942-1981).

He began studies at the Leningrad Conservatory and later with Mstislav Rostropovich at the Moscow Conservatory whilst pursuing a concert career throughout the Soviet Union. In 1966 he won 6th Prize at the Moscow International Tchaikovsky Competition. While his debut, at 17, with the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra earned him the nickname “Rostropovich [the late, great Russian cellist] of the future”, it was in 1966, as prize-winner of the prestigious International Tchaikovsky Competition, that he really started getting noticed. He entered the famous Moscow Conservatory to study with Rostropovich and was quickly taken under the great musician’s wing. He emigrated to Israel in 1971, where he holds citizenship. He also studied for a time with Gregor Piatigorsky in Los Angeles. He currently lives in Belgium.

Maisky01In his performing and recording career, Maisky has worked in long-standing partnerships with artists such as the pianists Martha Argerich, Radu Lupu, and Sergio Tiempo, the violinists Gidon Kremer and Janine Jansen, and the conductors Leonard Bernstein, Zubin Mehta, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Daniel Barenboim, and Giuseppe Sinopoli. Maisky’s friendship with Argerich has led to many performances together, such as the world premiere of Shchedrin’s double concerto Romantic Offering in 2011 in Lucerne, Switzerland.

As a Deutsche Grammophon artist during the last 25 years, he has made over 50 recordings, including many with such orchestras as the Vienna Philharmonic, Berlin Philharmonic, London Symphony Orchestra, Israel Philharmonic, Orchestre de Paris, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra and Chamber Orchestra of Europe. Mischa Maisky has the distinction of being the only cellist in the world to have studied with both Mstislav Rostropovich and Gregor Piatigorsky. Rostropovich has lauded Mischa Maisky as”… one of the most outstanding talents of the younger generation of cellists. His playing combines poetry and exquisite delicacy with great temperament and brilliant technique.”

In 2003, he performed at the St. Petersburg Symphony Hall with that orchestra during the celebration of 300 years of music at St. Petersburg, was warmly received to much applause, and repeatedly called back for bows with the orchestra.

Maisky’s daughter, Lily Maisky, born in Paris in 1987 and raised in Brussels, is embarking on a career as a concert pianist. Maisky’s son, Sascha Maisky, born in Brussels in 1989, is starting on a career as a concert violinist. Lily and Sascha have performed piano trios in public with their father. Maisky also has three other sons Maxim, Manuel and Mateo. (by wikipedia)

This is a sampler with some of his finest works (recorded between 1990 – 2003) … you should discover the magic of Mischa Maisky !

Mischa Maisky (cello)
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Zubin Mehta (on 01.
Orpheus Chamber Orchestra (on 02., 04. – 10.)
Orchestre de Paris conducted by Semyon Bychkov (on 03.)
Pavel Gililov (piano on 12. + 14.)
Daria Horova (piano on 13.)


Antonin Dvorak: Concerto for violoncello and orchestra, op 104
01. Allegro 14.29

Camille Saint-Saens:
Concert for violoncello and orchestra, op. 33:

02. Allegro non troppo 5.09

Le Carnaval des Animaux:
03 Le cygne 3.57

Robert Schumann: Concert for violoncello and orchestra, op 129
04. Langsam 3.55
05. Etwas lebhafter 8.41

Peter Tschaikowsky: Variations on a Rococo Theme,  op 33:
06 Variazione VI: Andante 3.07
07. Variazione Vii E Coda: Allegro Vivo 1.57

Luigi Boccherini:
String Quintet in E, Op.13, No.5:
08. Minuet 4.05

Cello Concerto No.7 in G major, G 480:
09. Adagio 4.58

Joseph Haydn: Concert for violoncello and orchestra No 2:
10. Rondo Allegro 4.32

Johann Sebastian Bach:
Suite For Cello Solo No.3 In C, Bwv 1009:
11. Bourrée I-II 4.03

Prelude No.1 Bwv 846:
12. Ave Maria 5.28

Franz Schubert: Schwanengesang D 957:
13. Ständchen “Leise flehen meine Lieder” 4.20

Fritz Kreisler:
14. Liebesleid 3.50


Antonín Dvořák – Slavic Dance (unknown date)

FrontCover1The Slavonic Dances (Czech: Slovanské tance) are a series of 16 orchestral pieces composed by Antonín Dvořák in 1878 and 1886 and published in two sets as Opus 46 and Opus 72 respectively. Originally written for piano four hands, the Slavonic Dances were inspired by Johannes Brahms’s own Hungarian Dances and were orchestrated at the request of Dvořák’s publisher soon after composition. The pieces, lively and overtly nationalistic, were well received at the time and today are among the composer’s most memorable works, occasionally making appearances in popular culture.

The Op. 46 set is listed in the Burghauser catalogue as B.78 in the original piano four hand version, and as B.83 in the orchestral version. The Op. 72 set is catalogued as B.145 in the piano four hand version, and as B.147 in the orchestral version.

DvorákPrior to the publication of the Slavonic Dances, Op. 46, Dvořák was a relatively unknown composer. Because of this fact, he had applied for the Austrian State Music Prize scholarship in order to fund his compositional work. After he won the prize 3 times in 4 years (1874, 1876-77), Johannes Brahms, as one of the members of the committee responsible for awarding the scholarship, referred Dvořák to his own publisher, Fritz Simrock. The first of Dvořák’s music to be published by Simrock was the Moravian Duets, which attained widespread success; encouraged, Simrock asked the composer to write something with a dance-like character.

Unsure how to begin, Dvořák used Brahms’s Hungarian Dances as a model — but only as a model; there are a number of important differences between the two works. For example, whereas Brahms made use of actual Hungarian folk melodies, Dvořák only made use of the characteristic rhythms of Slavic folk music: the melodies are entirely his own. Simrock was immediately impressed by the music Dvořák produced (originally for piano four hands), and asked the composer for an orchestral version as well. Both versions were published within the year, and quickly established Dvořák’s international reputation. The enormous success of the Opus 46 dances led Simrock to request another set of Slavonic Dances in 1886; Dvořák’s subsequent Opus 72 dances met with a similar reception. (by wikipedia)

This a low budget production but a real nice piece of music … Enjoy it !

TitelpageThe title page of the first series of Slavonic Dances
with Dvořák’s dedication to Mr. Wassman

Marian Lapansky (piano (09 – 16.)
Peter Operczer (piano (01. – 08.)


Opus 46:
01. No. 1 in C major (Furiant) 3.55
02. No. 2 in E minor (Dumka) 5.01
03. No. 3 in A-flat major (Polka) 4.07
04. No. 4 in F major (Sousedská) 6.04
05. No. 5 in A major (Skočná) 3.06
06. No. 6 in D major (Sousedská) 5.49
07. No. 7 in C minor (Skočná) 3.25
08. No. 8 in G minor (Furiant) 4.03

Opus 72
09. No. 1 (9) in B major (Odzemek) 4.05
10. No. 2 (10) in E minor (Starodávný) 5.17
11. No. 3 (11) in F major (Skočná) 3.16
12. No. 4 (12) in D-flat major (Dumka) 5.17
13. No. 5 (13) in B-flat minor (Špacírka) 2.43
14. No. 6 (14) in B-flat major (Starodávný (“Ancient”) 3.25
15. No. 7 (15) in C major (Kolo) 3.02
16. No. 8 (16) in A-flat major (Sousedská) 5.56