Dvorák’s string quartets – 14 of them in all – cover the range of his career. While his earlier chamber works are often formally experimental and tonally ambitious, the quartets of his maturity are assured masterworks, even if now they are – with one exception – less well known than their craftsmanship and richness of invention palpably demonstrate that they deserve to be. Three of the four quartets on this compilation date from Dvorˇák’s late ‘American’ period and shortly afterwards. They move with mastery through melodies that could be heard as having an authentically ‘American’ tang, or indeed a flavour of the oldworld Bohemia for which the composer felt so nostalgic - and to which he would return before the last of these works, after a dispute over money with his patron.
The Guarneri Quartet were remarkable both for their longevity and their consistency of achievement until their retirement in 2007. They were a smoothly integrated ensemble almost from the start of their association in 1961, as a record executive recognised when he went to one of their early concerts and quickly signed them up. They went on to record all the standard repertoire of the genre and much more besides, and with a sweetness worthy of the instruments of their eponymous violin-maker’s name.
String Quartet No. 12 in F major, Op. 96 'American'
String Quartet No. 13 in G major, Op. 106 (B192)
String Quartet No. 14 in A flat major, Op. 105 (B193)
Terzetto in C major for two Violins and Viola, Op. 74