Leos Janácek did not produce string quartets until the last decades of his life, but when he finally turned to the genre, he produced works that represented an outpouring of emotion brought about largely by an unrequited, unobtainable love. The First Quartet, subtitled "Kreutzer Sonata," is based on Tolstoy's novel of marital infidelity. The Second Quartet, "Intimate Letters," is a much more brazen, obvious statement of his passionate affections for Kamila Stösslová. Both quartets are highly complex rhythmically, technically, harmonically, and motivically and incorporate Janácek's extensive study of native speech patterns and rhythms. The original version of the Second Quartet was scored for the viola d'amore, an instrument whose popularity was short-lived and intermittent. Janácek admired the rich, unique sonority of the instrument, but was eventually forced to rescore the quartet for a modern viola. This Audite album, featuring the Mandelring Quartet, includes the version for the modern viola as well as a reconstructed version that uses the viola d'amore, performed by Gunter Teuffel. This provides listeners with a rare opportunity to hear how Janácek may have envisioned his final quartet, as well as a chance to compare the unique sounds of the two instruments. In all cases, the Mandelring Quartet puts forth performances that are energetic, vigorous, and edgy. Important for any successful performance of these works, it also plays with strict rhythmic precision and clear articulation. Intonation is generally good, but sometimes gets nebulous during especially loud, complicated passages. Audite's sound is clear and detailed.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Mike D. Brownell
|String Quartet No. 1 "Kreutzer Sonata"|
|String Quartet No. 2 "Intimate Letters" (viola)|
|String Quartet No. 2 "Intimate Letters" (viola d'amore)|