I'm not a huge Naxos customer, but this collection of some lesser-known Dvorak chamber music is a winner. While not the virtuostic sonatas of Beethoven, these wonderful compositions showcase Dvorak's endless melodic allure and Czech-inspiration. The opening aria-like 'Romance' in F-minor is probably the most sensual and lusturous piece of the set - with some of the Four Romantic Pieces not far behind. The underperformed Violin Sonata in F-major is the most substantial composition here with movements that span the range of emotion from lilting Bohemian Allegros to soaring, plaintive melodies in the slow movements. They are quite rich musically and feature some sparkling piano writing in the closing movement. By comparison, the other Sonata - a modest "Sonatina" - is not difficult but is a work whose beauty and appeal lie in its simplicity and charming melodies - not unlike what made Mozart's simpler pieces so appealing.
Several musicians have given strong performances of these works. Perlman gets high marks from many for his always beautiful and expressive phrasing. Josef Suk was a legendary "voice" for this genre and made some fine recordings - but are harder to find. In this CD, award-winning Chinese violinist Qian Zhou gives readings more on the bold, empassioned side, although she can coax out some beautiful, gentle lyricism in pieces like the Romance and first Romantic Piece. This disc (along with Volume II) got top reviews by ClassicsToday who rated it a 9/10 overall for artistry and sound quality. Indeed, the sound is very good: bold, bright and optimally resonant to bring out the full tonal colors. Perfect balance too, so no complaints on this Naxos engineering work. All-in-all, a wonderful recital of some of Dvorak's more humble chamber music out of a vast, impressive output. Additionally, if you have not explored Dvorak's chamber music (especially the piano trios and quartets), it is a wide, rewarding world to discover. The Naxos series of Dvorak String Quartets by the Vlach Quartet Prague is an important and welcome addition to the catalog of choices and is an excellent choice to explore this repertoire.