Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
Smetana: String Quartets 1 & 2 / From My Homeland
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POOR OLD BEDRICH!
Melvyn M. Sobel | Freeport (Long Island), New York | 07/06/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Smetana's last years were certainly not filled with health and happiness. Anything but! Yet, as some sort of perverse mixed blessing, we are left with the legacy of his two quartets, mainstays of 19th century Czech chamber music, while death literally hovered over his shoulder (and obviously helped him write).
By the time he had completed his Quartet No. 1 in Em ("From My Life"), 1876, he was stone deaf for two years; and Quartet No. 2 was, for the most part, completed a year before he died. And, to add insult to injury, his orchestral masterpeice, Ma Vlast, was written, as well, during this timeframe. It does seem hard to believe, but true. So strong is the creative drive, especially in composers of accepted genius, that, well, write they must; write they do.
So, then, did Smetana (1824-1884), and the two quartets he left us are fabulously rewarding works, filled with rich melodies, humbling pathos and simply remarkable insights that move us to laugh and cry. They rank, easily, with the finest Dvorak.
The two pieces for violin and piano are lovely additions--- and offer suitable resolution after such probing, emotional music.
The Moyzes foursome give a sturdy performance, hardly lacking in depth or angst, and marvelously devoid of eccentricity. They never push the music over the edge, as too many groups are apt to do.
The sound, not as rich and full as some other issues from this label, is still completely acceptable.
[Running time: 61:02]"
Two masterworks in the history of string quartets
Sungu Okan | Istanbul, Istanbul Turkey | 11/17/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This two quartets, written by deaf, ill health, but a genius and very romantic-charactered Czech composer, Smetana (1824-1884). These are staples in chamber music repertoire, very often played and recorded. Both has a tragic, lyric, passion mood. And the performances of Moyzes Quartet is really amazing. They has a very good musicquality and played with sensitiveness.
String Quartet No. 1, named "From my life" is an autobiographical work, as you know. The first movement is in a appasionata mood, which tells about the composers' pathetic fate. The second movement is a salon-polka, in a sunny mood, which tells about composers' society life. The third movement is the slow mov. and tells about the composers' first love. The great finale is tells about Smetana's succeful career, as a composer and conducts and plays piano, across the Europe. This very fast music suddenly cut off! And then, there is a dramatic scene, which tells about composers' deafness, and the noise-signal of deafness played by Violin I. And then, there is a nostalgic passage, he remembers his happy moments of past times, there is a "faint ray of hope", but nevertheless, these moments will not come back again...! The resignation to the fate...
The Straing Quartet No. 2 in D minor is another pathetic phenomenon. Written in 1883, a year before the master's painful death in a mental asylum... Actually, doctor of the composer was forbidden to compose any work. But Smetana, work privately. But the developement duraiton was too long. Because, he could not remember that what he was write to score! So, he completed that ca. 18 minute work in 9 months! And, when you listen that work, you can feel that, Smetana is going to crazy, to be mad!
There are very tempestous moments in Quartet No. 2, ad has lyric, passionate moments, too, but finishes very flamboyant, near the border of insane!
There is the preface of composer, for his "From my life":
Concerning the poetic content of this composition, the composer himself in a letter dated April 12, 1878 (this, at a time when he had already lost his hearing) states that he wished in this quartet to depict his life in a muscial form.
"1st movement: The love of art in his youth, the unsatisfied longing for something indefinable, as well as the premonition of impending disaster.
The 2nd movement, "a la Polka", refers to his happy youth, in which Smetana indulged passionately in dancing and composed above all.
3rd movement: "Largo sostenuto". The bliss of his first love-for the girl who later became the master's wife.
4rd movement: The recognition of his national music, his joy at the succes he gained; suddenly the long-held high E, that fateful ringing in the composer's ears before his deafness. A painful recollection of the very baginnings of his career; a faint ray of hope; finally resignation in the face of his ineluctable destiny."
Highly recommended for any music lovers."