Bedřich Smetana wrote his first and second string quartets in the final decade of his life, thereby adding two brilliant specimens to the masterly output of his most mature creative period, as well as contributing a pair of gems to the treasury of the world quartet literature. As its subtitle, "From My Life", implies, the first of the quartets has the character of intimate personal confession. Reaching much farther beyond that, however, its music transcends the purely individual plane, conveying a universally human, highly suggestive dialogue between a strong characterand the force of destiny.
The second quartet came into existence at a time by when Smetana's illness had climaxed and the composer, completely deaf, fully realized the tragic dimension of hisdeal. Hence the work's inevitable autobiographical tones which cannot be overheard either, even though they are clearly of a different kind from those of the first quartet. The music here, reverberating with the tremors of the composer's tortured body and soul, overcomes moments of crisis and culminates in a final bright vision. The study and performance of the Smetana quartets has traditionally constituted a prestigious challenge for ever new generations of artists. This recording, made by the Škampa Quartet, brings a highly individual, fresh and young account of these two works by the genius of Czech music, a reading at the same time which fully respects the composer's style.
Smetana quartets ever fresh and original, in the hands of the present generation of players.
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