Performance Wednesday, April 15, 2015 | 7:30 PM

Artemis Quartet

Zankel Hall
String quartets by two beloved Czech composers frame an intense quartet by a contemporary Latvian master. Dvořák’s “American” Quartet was written shortly after his “New World” Symphony and, like the symphony, reveals his fascination with the Native American music and African American spirituals he heard during his US stay (1892–1895). The young Dvořák played viola in the premiere of Smetana’s String Quartet No. 1, a deeply personal work that Smetana called, “a tone picture of my life, my youthful leanings towards art and the Romantic atmosphere.” While not overtly autobiographical, Pēteris Vasks’s music does speak to the history of his homeland and its struggles.

The contemporary work on this program is part of My Time, My Music.


  • Artemis Quartet
    ·· Vineta Sareika, Violin
    ·· Gregor Sigl, Violin
    ·· Friedemann Weigle, Viola
    ·· Eckart Runge, Cello


  • DVOŘÁK String Quartet No. 12 in F Major, Op. 96, "American"
  • PĒTERIS VASKS String Quartet No. 5
  • SMETANA String Quartet No. 1 in E Minor, "From My Life"


Dvorák's String Quartet No. 12 in F Major, Op. 96, "American" (Finale)
Guarneri Quartet
Sony Music Entertainment

At a Glance

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 the 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.”  

This performance is part of Chamber Sessions II.

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