By Laurence Vittes | From the November-December 2022 issue of Strings magazine
It’s hard to resist the notion that cellist Jan Vogler’s passionate, eloquent celebration of Dvořák’s chamber music with brilliant young colleagues, including the use of Romantic portamenti and ferocious speeds in a magnificent performance of the Piano Quartet, Op. 87, comes close to what was in the composer’s heart. Their flashing virtuosity has made it possible for music written in the most challenging keys amidst a landscape of relentless enharmonic changes—barren for the most part of open strings—to be transformed into music of sublime open-hearted beauty.
The Dvořák Album
Jan Vogler, cello; Kevin Zhu, violin; Matthew Lipman, viola; Juho Pohjonen, cello; Chad Hoopes, violin; Tiffany Poon, piano (Sony)
As Tully Potter recently pointed out to me, “Dvořák often uses the most unusual keys in his later chamber music, perhaps because he is thinking as a player. He’s writing this music for the absolute top-notch players who laugh at his awkward writing and delight in the colors and flourishes it allows.”
Jan Vogler wrote me in praise of Dvořák’s writing for the cello, describing it as “remarkably daring and beautifully versatile. He gave the cellist the role of the hero; he was the first to recognize the ability of the cello to be both powerful and lyrical. His trust in the cello as a solo instrument peaked in his unparalleled cello concerto but also can be found abundantly in his chamber music. In the Piano Quartet in particular he writes one of the most beautiful melodies for the cello in the second movement and at the same time lets the cello take the lead with many bass lines that are—as opposed to Brahms and Schumann—not doubled in the left hand of the piano. The cellist also enjoys the privilege of being chosen by Dvořák to tell the whole story as a soloist at extraordinary moments in the piece.”
The stunning sound, recorded at Drew University, heightens the beauty and intoxication.