The Vlach quartet has given us a very fine series of Dvorak quartets for Naxos, but the two discs that comprise their series of string quintets might, on the whole, be even more valuable. The three quintets are scored for different combinations, and many consider to be this, the second, scored for string quartet and double bass, to be the finest (I am less sure that it really beats the utterly marvelous third, but that's another story); it is, at the very least, among Dvorak's most wonderful chamber pieces, chock full of colors, breathtakingly beautiful melodies, vigorous rhythms, and is on the whole stirringly atmospheric and optimistic in a manner not entirely dissimilar to Mendelssohn's octet.
I am happy to report that the augmented Vlach quartet (with Jacub Waldmann on double bass) is utterly satisfying in every respect. The lines are clear, the characterization is strong, and the players command the wide palette of colors and burnished tone to realize this gorgeous work thoroughly. In short, here is all the spirit and vigor, depth, atmosphere and color you could ask for.
They are equally compelling in the couplings. The Intermezzo, originally a movement from the quintet, is sensitively dispatched, gentle and reflective, whereas the Drobnosti (miniatures), Dvorak's Romantic Pieces for violin and piano in their original instrumentation, are magically delicate, less full-blooded than in the violin and piano arrangement but in my view even better (possibly because of the wonderful performances). The nostalgically tinted Andante appassionato, from an early uncompleted string quartet, sports some very fine tunes but is overall less memorable, even though the Vlach provides a deeply felt performance. The recording is righ and deep with a wonderful balance. Very strongly recommended, then.