Janáček Quartet

Smetana: String Quartet No. 2; Janácek: String Quartet No. 2 "Intimate Letters"

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As one of the great modern Czech string quartets and as masterful interpreters of its national music, the Janácek String Quartet comes to its name honestly and brings authority to its performances of Leos Janácek's String Quartet No. 2, "Intimate Letters," and Bedrich Smetana's String Quartet No. 2 in D minor. The works on this 1994 CD from Amabile are loosely connected to conventional quartet form, insofar as the divisions into four movements correspond to the Classical model; beyond that, however, they are rather wayward in development, unpredictable in content, and eccentric in design, to reflect their autobiographical and emotional programs. Smetana's piece relates his personal decline into madness and is a continuation of the painful drama reflected in his String Quartet No. 1 in E minor. Similarly composed to express turbulent subjective states, Janácek's masterpiece in the string quartet genre portrays in music his passionate love affair of the final year of his life. These highly charged pieces require both physical and emotional stamina, which the Janácek String Quartet plainly has in abundance, and these quartets feel as passionate, spontaneous, and powerful as the composers wished. Amabile's sound is warm and vibrant, but too resonant to be absolutely clear.

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