MUSIC / Kocian Quartet - Wigmore Hall, London

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The Independent Culture
Prague 1875-1900 is the title, but, by letting in Schubert, these three concerts have found an attractive leavening for high- Romantic emotion. He is also a kindred, songful spirit to Dvorak, who dominates the programmes - and not only with familiar pieces. Saturday saw six of the Dvorak Cypresses, poetic and sometimes epigrammatic miniatures drawn from the music of an abandoned song cycle, and his robust G major Quintet, which adds double-bass to the basic foursome and here made an uncomplicated centrepiece to a relaxed, serenade-like programme.

Nothing casual about the playing, though: the Kocian belongs to a seemingly unending line of fine quartets from the former Czechoslovakia. Its strengths include intense but unforced feeling for melody - cello especially relishing lyrical moments, viola firm and clear at the centre - and a scrupulous balance which makes for irresistible rhythmic life, animated from within the part-writing. In all it's a lighter sound than we are used to from West European players, passionate without needing to be laboured or frantic.

The guest bassist, Chi-chi Nwanoku, might well have been frantic, having lost her music en route at Bremen Airport when a wartime bomb was discovered and detonated. An extra half-hour interval held up the Quintet while taxis were despatched for replacement parts, and the performance took a couple of movements to unwind. Its eventual delight was an easily flowing Andante, and the same sense of all-the-time-in-the-world held through the corresponding parts of Schubert's Trout Quintet, with Boris Krajny the subtle and spirited pianist.

Final concert 2 December; sponsored by Bankers Trust Company

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