Founded in 2016, the ensemble ROctet – short for Radio String Octet – does not lack passion.
Proof of it is the Double Quartet by Nikolaï Afanassyev (1886), of which this is the very first recording. A melodic inventiveness – that can be at times naive and at times melancholic (Dvorak isn’t always far) – is what attracts the ear. The piece by the Siberian violinist also seduces by its sparkling energy.
While the Spring-like Allegro Moderato and sizzling Finale are bursting with effects, the performers fully inhabited the Andante Sostenuto and its Russian soul without ever needing to overplay the pathos.
Change of tone in the Two Pieces for string octet by Shostakovich (1924). Without excessive darkness, but with a striking concentrated dramatism, the Dutch ensemble is poignant in the way it shakes the most agitated bars of the Prelude, which are marked by the death of young Dmitri’s friend Volodia Kurtchavov. The music gets rougher as it turns into the Scherzo, which the bows rip apart with expressionist fury.
Mendelssohn’s opus 20, where the teenager’s heart pounds wildly, completely changes the setting once again. Somewhat too full of sap, the Allegro moderato ma con fuoco can overwhelm the ear. After an intensely veined Andante, the Scherzo gallops with the lightness of a butterfly, and the fiery Presto reminds one last time what youth is all about.