It says much for the Russian pianist Rustem Hayroudinoff that he gives such a command- ing performance of the Dvorák Piano Concerto, always a tricky work to play thanks to unpianistic piano writing. Sviatoslav Richter, after making his classic recording with Carlos Kleiber, pronounced that it was the most difficult concerto he had ever tackled but somehow he made the original, unrevised piano-writing – which he insisted on using – sound totally convincing.
Bruckner's early string quartet is more a composition exercise than a full-fledged work of art, but the quintet is something else entirely: a chamber music masterpiece to rank with the great symphonies in expressive intensity and sheer musical grandeur. Indeed, there are a few places where Bruckner seems to demand an almost orchestral volume of tone, and the slow movement has been successful performed (and recorded) by a full string orchestra. The Intermezzo is none other than an alternative scherzo for the quintet, composed because the original players at the premier found Bruckner's first thoughts too difficult. Well, the members of L'Archibudelli certainly don't find the music too difficult–you won't find better performances anywhere.
Second in popularity only to the Ninth Symphony "From the New World," Dvorák's Twelfth String Quartet – which was dubbed the "American" Quartet by the public and media rather than the composer himself – is a work nearly synonymous with the composer's tenure in the United States. These were not the only two works inspired by his cross-sea voyage, however. The Thirteenth String Quartet in G major, Op. 106, though not imbued with the same folkloric characteristics, also came about following the composer's return from the States. The popularity of the "American" Quartet has resulted in a work that is arguably overplayed, making it difficult for new ensembles to find anything new or unique to say about it.
Classical music listeners resort to ethnic and national generalizations too often. Some of the most insightful Beethoven interpreters were French, and there are plenty of classic non-Czech recordings of Dvorák. Yet there's something uniquely satisfying about this version of the much-recorded Slavonic Dances (both sets, Op. 46 and Op. 72), and the satisfaction has something to do with the all-Czech origins. Take for example the match between the superb sound, recorded in Prague's Rudolfinium hall, and the texture of Jirí Belohlávek's Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, an ensemble he has molded into his own.
Nicola Porpora, a contemporary of Bach, Handel, Vivaldi, and Haydn (and a very young Mozart) is best remembered today as a famous singing teacher and opera composer. During his long career (he lived to age 81) he suffered many employment-related difficulties and disappointments that caused him to move frequently. Naples (where he was born), Venice, Dresden, and Vienna (where he taught Haydn) all enjoyed Porpora's reputable presence, and he even spent a period in London at the behest of a group seeking to unseat Handel and his opera company from its preeminent position. In addition to his operas and vocal music, Porpora wrote instrumental works such as the six violin sonatas featured here, which are drawn from a set of 12. Although anyone familiar with Italian Baroque and early Classical-style solo violin music will discover nothing particularly original on this generally fine recording, if you enjoy that genre and period you'll find much here to indulge and satisfy your taste.