The Strad Issue: January 2010
Musicians: Wihan Quartet
These 2004 recordings, previously available only from the Wihan Quartet website, come a long way after the group’s splendid coupling of Dvo?ák’s op.51 and op.106 and do not quite fulfil the promise of those 1996–97 performances.
It is traditional to treat the opening bars of the C major Quartet as a slowish introduction but the Wihans overdo it – no wonder they leave out the exposition repeat, depriving us of five first-time bars. They catch the mood of yearning in the Poco adagio, but adopt slightly too broad a tempo so that it drifts a little in the middle.
The ‘American’ also loses its exposition repeat and the basic tempo for the Allegro is on the slow side, so that some details sound pedantic rather than precise. The Lento is very lovely and, as in the C major, the last two movements are fine – the passage in the finale depicting Dvo?ák at the organ is delicately done.
Turn to the Panocha Quartet (Supraphon) and you find every deficiency of the Wihan readings remedied. It is an education just to hear how creatively the older players treat the exposition repeats. The Wihan recordings, made in Britain at Potton Hall, sound good.