The Strad's experts evaluate the latest string recordings
Jindřich Feld: String Quartet no.4, Clarinet Quintet, Two Pieces for cello, Viola Concerto
Saturday, 01 December 2007
Pražák Quartet, Raphaël Oleg (viola) Michal Kaˇnka (cello) Jan Mach (clarinet) Jaromír Klepáˇc (piano) Czech Radio Symphony Orchestra, Vladimír Válek (conductor)
Praga Digitals PRD/DSD 250 239 (hybrid SACD)
Jindřich Feld (b.1925) is one of the foremost Czech composers of his generation, and if Bartók’s influence rather overwhelms him on occasion, there is a neo-Classical warmth to his creative personality that is unfailingly attractive. The Fourth Quartet (1965) overflows with unmistakably Bartókian devices – pizzicato effects, passages of bitonality, ‘night music’ rustlings, eerie glissandos and so on – yet by avoiding the Hungarian’s folksong obsessions Feld creates the impression of greater expressive freedom. The Pražák Quartet plays with a knife-edge precision and timbral sensitivity that makes the best possible case for the work’s multi-faceted textural interplay. The players are joined by Jan Mach for the three-movement Clarinet Quintet (1999), a much later piece that while retaining an unswerving allegiance to Bartók is tempered by a Brahmsian espressivo that saturates the music with a heavy, nostalgic longing. Again the performance is expert, enhanced by a demonstration-worthy recording, which sounds extraordinarily life-like when the SACD track is activated.
It was at the instigation of the celebrated French engineer, musicologist and music critic Pierre-Emile Barbier that Feld composed a concerto for his own instrument, the viola (2003–4). The result, recorded live in Dijon’s Franck auditorium, indulges the viola’s autumnal expressive voice in the outer movements while also ensuring, à la Walton, that the central Allegro provides plenty of opportunity for virtuoso agility. Raphaël Oleg gives a masterly account of the high-octane solo part and is supported to the hilt by the Czech Radio Symphony Orchestra and Vladimír Válek. Michal Kanka’s haunting interpretations of the two cello pieces (1954–5) round out a highly diverting programme.
From the December 2007 issue. Subscribe to The Strad or download our digital edition as part of a 30-day free trial.