Tokyo String Quartet

Dvorak & Smetana String Quartets

(Harmonia Mundi)

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When I reviewed the Tokyo String Quartet's CD of Brahms Quintets with guest musicians Jon Manasse and Jon Nakamatsu last November, I knew it was the group's penultimate recording. Violinist Kikuei Ikeda and violist Kazuhide Isomura had decided to retire and the remaining duo, violinist Martin Beaver and cellist Clive Greensmith, after months of agonising, decided not to replace the irreplaceable in an ensemble with a unique sound and a 45-year career at the top of the business, but call it a day and gracefully disband. One final CD was promised, and here it comes, due out a week tomorrow. It presents two of the greatest masterpieces from the Czech repertoire in Dvorak's American String Quartet and Smetana's First String Quartet, From My Life. They are quintessential Tokyo recordings, steeped in wisdom, flawless clarity of ensemble, unforced and reaching to the heart of the music. There will be no more from these magicians, but the legacy of recordings will endure.

Michael Tumelty