Prazak Quartet sound notes of calm in troubled times - The Leamington Observer

Prazak Quartet sound notes of calm in troubled times

Leamington Editorial 27th Feb, 2022   0

The Prazak Quartet

Pump Rooms, Leamington

THE struggles of musicians working in impossibly difficult times to produce beautiful and moving works against a background of threat and strife could almost serve as a one-line history for so much of Czech music.

And with the eyes of the world so focussed on dreadful events elsewhere to the east it was, not for the first time, Czech music which distracted, transported and eventually soothed us.

The Prazak Quartet have been here before, indeed it was an upheaval of a different sort which saw their last scheduled visit fall to the start of the Covid pandemic. How marvellous then to welcome them again even if the world around us hasn’t discarded its dangers, merely acquired different ones.

Josef Suk’s miniature Meditation opened the programme in the most beautiful  way imaginable. It’s a work which seems to contain so many different textures in a comparatively small structure and the icy touch of winter was perfect for an auditorium in which the failings in the council’s heating department had already been alluded to.

Janacek’s Kreuzer Sonata-inspired quartet followed and it’s hard to imagine a more Czech-sounding reading of the work. Heavy vibrato at base and deep textures cut savagely by some chilling bridge-playing and full-on attacks. From the gentle but vulnerable slower second movement to the rhythmic complexity of the finale it was a study in committed concentration from four musicians understanding each other perfectly. The Prazak arrange themselves in a far tighter formation than many – perhaps the almost electric concentration levels and subsequent power stems from that.

The same dynamic extremes were present in Quartet No 4 by Karel Janovický, a UK première by a composer who has, in the past, graced this very auditorium to hear music from this series. Leamington, of course, has a well-documented history of hosting Czech nationals during the war and since.

This quartet, presented with such verve by the Prazak players, deserves to be heard more encompassing as it does such a range of tranquility and turbulence almost within the same phrase.

The Dvorak which formed the second half was equally impressive, particularly in its slower second movement. Astonishingly beautiful and so carefully constructed, this was a perfectly-paced gem in an evening which went some way at least to reassuring us that music, indeed art, transcends the times which produce it and offers a vital, undimmable vision of hope.

Friday evening’s concert was dedicated to the memory of Iain Smith, the first Chairman of Leamington Music, who played a key role in setting up the charity and ensuring that a wide range of chamber concerts would be available to music lovers. Mr Smith died of a stroke in early December but the value of his work, alongside others, is evident in the continuing treats this series has to offer. Visit for details of forthcoming concerts and booking arrangements



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