ANTONÍN DVOŘÁK String Quartet No. 12 in F Major, Op. 96, “American"
In the mid-1890s, Dvořák spent parts of three years in the
United States as director of the National Conservatory of Music in New York City. During
that happy period, he composed the “New World” Symphony, as well as a pair of
chamber works that inevitably acquired the nickname “American”: the String
Quartet in F Major, Op. 96, and the String Quintet in E-flat Major, Op. 97. The
former, written during an idyllic summer sojourn in Iowa, has long been one of the Bohemian
composer’s most popular works.
PĒTERIS VASKS String Quartet No. 5
Composed in 2004, the two-movement Quartet No. 5 is the
second of two that Latvian composer Pēteris
Vasks has written for the Kronos Quartet. The contrast between
darkness and light, drama and lyricism, is at the heart of this powerfully
expressive work. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, Vasks has found an
enthusiastic audience in Europe and the United States, where his music has been
championed by the likes of Kronos, violinist Gidon Kremer, The Hilliard
Ensemble, and the Nederlands Dans Theater.
BEDŘICH SMETANA String Quartet
No. 1 in E Minor, “From My Life”
“It was my intent to portray in music the course of my
life,” Smetana explained to the friend who sponsored the first performance of
his E-Minor Quartet in 1878. Having lost his hearing as a result of a syphilis
infection, the Czech composer had necessarily turned inward for inspiration.
The E-Minor Quartet combines high spirits with emotional intensity, climaxing
in a chilling depiction of the buzzing in the deaf man’s ears, which Smetana
shrugged off as a “little joke.”