Leos Janáček

String Quartet No. 2 ("Listy duverné," "Intimate Letters"), JW 7/13

    Description by Adrian Corleonis

    "I consider the last decade of his life: his country independent, his music at last applauded, himself loved by a young woman," Milan Kundera wrote of Janácek, "his works become more and more bold, free, merry. A Picasso-like old age." The woman was Kamila Stösslová, wife of an antiques dealer encountered during the first World War, 38 years his junior. And while she may have loved him in a general way of being flattered, tolerant, amused, uncomprehending, his passion seems to have been largely unrequited (recent research has shown that Janácek's "love" was, in this case, returned. - Ed.) Thus, a measure of teasing irritant stimulated Janácek's final years, provoking his last and greatest works. One catches glimpses of Kamila in the adulterous heroine of Kát'a Kabanová, the wily wisdom of the The Cunning Little Vixen, and the charismatic but distant allure of the deathless Emilia Marty, heroine of The Makropulos Case, while the virile directness of the Sinfonietta and the barbaric splendors of the Glagolitic Mass are immediate responses to a fascination becoming increasingly obsessive. Though he may have drawn upon an early, now lost, piano trio, the completion of the String Quartet No. 1 -- inspired by The Kreutzer Sonata, Tolstoy's tale of adultery and jealous murder given wing by music -- in just a little over a week (October 30-November 7, 1923) is testimony to an erotic frenzy. By the time of its composition, Janácek was writing to Kamila nearly every day, and in his last year kept a journal devoted to her. Nevertheless, he seems to have attempted to free himself from the tyranny she held over his imagination with the male-dominated From the House of the Dead -- which Kundera rated, with Berg's Wozzeck, as "the truest, the greatest opera of our dark century" -- though it is indicative that he interrupted that work's composition between January 29 and February 19, 1928, to give voice to the String Quartet No. 2, originally titled "Love Letters" but, for discretion's sake was re-christened "Intimate Letters." Its four movements are a drama of volatile, fluctuating emotion, from the opening rush of excited expectation through brusque turns of impetuosity, questioning, and caressing tenderness. The second movement is a passionate meditation veering from doubt to joy, while the third expands the mood of questioning to confront it with a passionate declaration. The final movement is a rondo in which the returns of a frenzied dance enclose shifts from ecstasy to despair, ending with triumphant assertion. Janácek died the following August 12.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Andante
    2. Adagio
    3. Moderato
    4. Allegro

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2019 Nimbus Alliance NI 6376
    2018 Gramola 99002
    2017 Lawo Classics LWC 1124
    2017 Alpha 268
    2016 Deutsche Grammophon 4795982
    2016 Deutsche Grammophon 002894795516
    2016 Ars Produktion ARS 38206
    2015 Hyperion CDA 67997
    2015 Chandos CHAN 10848
    2015 Nimbus Alliance NI 6289
    2014 La Dolce Volta LDV 256
    2014 Harmonia Mundi HMC 902178
    2014 Praga PRDDSD 250301
    2013 Centaur Records 3198
    2013 Orchid Classics ORC 100036
    2012 MDG / Zebralution
    2011 Newton / Newton Classics 8802072
    2011 Collins Classics RETR0009
    2011 Zuk Records 331
    2010 Audite 92545
    2010 Deutsche Grammophon
    2010 Decca
    2010 Telos 104
    2009 Deutsche Grammophon 001277002
    2009 Deutsche Grammophon
    2009 Denon Records
    2009 MDG 3071472
    2009 Alpha Productions 133
    2009 Supraphon 40032
    2008 Brilliant 6473/2
    2008 EMI Classics
    2008 EMI Classics 08282
    2008 EMI Classics 2081212
    2008 Harmonia Mundi 501380
    2008 Coviello Classics 50802
    2007 Brilliant 93181
    2007 Harmonia Mundi 2908250
    2007 EMI Classics 97629
    2007 Zig Zag Territoires ZZT2010701
    2007 Chandos 10405
    2007 Meridian Records 84560
    2007 Supraphon 39062
    2007 Kuk 66
    2006 Cedille Records 92
    2006 Virgin / Virgin Classics 0946353399
    2006 Virgin Classics
    2006 Supraphon 38772
    2006 Globe Records 5081
    2006 Calliope 9333
    2006 Brodsky Records BRD3503
    2005 EMI Music Distribution 55457
    2005 EMI Classics
    2005 Nimbus 5379
    2005 Amabile 8
    2005 Praga 350014
    2004 Fazer / Finlandia
    2004 Decca 475 5232
    2003 Brilliant 6473
    2003 Deutsche Grammophon
    2003 Deutsche Grammophon 4740102
    2002 Harmonia Mundi 1951380
    2002 ASV PLT8509
    2001 Supraphon 34862
    2000 Supraphon 3460
    1999 Collins Records 13812
    1999 Philips 456574
    1999 Supraphon SU3349-2
    1999 Harmonia Mundi 7901380
    1999 Edition Abseits 011
    1998 Studio Matous 00322131
    1998 Naxos 553895
    1997 Finlandia 17673
    1997 Berlin Classics 0092 972BC
    1997 Praga 250108
    1997 Arizona Chamber 96101
    1996 RCA Victor Red Seal 68286
    1996 Testament 1075
    1996 Sony Music Distribution 66840
    1996 Supraphon 02152131
    1995 Capriccio Records 10511
    1995 Calliope 9699
    1995 Supraphon 0076
    1994 Supraphon 1354
    1993 ASV/Living Era 749
    1993 Disques Pierre Verany 792092
    1992 Harmonia Mundi 901380
    1990 Bayer Records 100151
    1989 Deutsche Grammophon 427669
    Channel Classics 14898
    Apex
    Panton Records 1203
    Discover 920457
    IMP Classics 985
    Arta 34
    Denon Records 7545
    Panton Records 0376
    Panton Records 811203
    Supraphon 111354
    Multisonic 310351
    Brilliant 93181/24
    ArcoDiva 362131
    Multisonic 0351
    Panton Records 811189