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"

Event Duration

The printed program will last approximately two hours, including one 20-minute intermission.


  • Artemis Quartet

    The Berlin-based Artemis Quartet was founded in 1989 at the Musikhochschule Lübeck, and is recognized today as one of the foremost quartets in the world. Its mentors include Walter Levin, Alfred Brendel, and the Alban Berg, Juilliard, and Emerson quartets. Since its successful debut at the Berlin Philharmonie in 1999, the quartet has performed in all the great music centers and at international festivals in Europe, the US, Japan, South America, and Australia.

    Since 2004, the Artemis Quartet has been programming its own critically renowned series in the Berlin Philharmonie and, in addition, was named Quartet in Residence at the Vienna Konzerthaus in 2011.

    Celebrating its 20th anniversary along with its special affinity for Beethoven's music, the quartet embarked on a Beethoven cycle in 2009, which was performed over two seasons in the major capitols of Europe. The project culminated in a recording of the complete quartets with Virgin Classics / EMI, which was awarded the prestigious Grand Prix de l'Académie Charles-Cros.

    Collaborations with other musicians have always been an important source of inspiration for the ensemble. The quartet has toured with such artists as Sabine Meyer, Elisabeth Leonskaja, Juliane Banse, and Jörg Widmann. Other partnerships have been documented on CD, such as the Brahms and Schubert piano quintets with Leif Ove Andsnes, the Schubert String Quintet with Truls Mørk, and Schoenberg's Verklärte Nacht with Thomas Kakuska and Valentin Erben from the Alban Berg Quartet. Acclaimed composers have also written pieces for the quartet, including Mauricio Sotelo, Jörg Widmann, Thomas Larcher, and most recently Daniel Schnyder.

    Exclusive Virgin Classics / EMI recording artists since 2005, the Artemis Quartet has been recognized with the prestigious Gramophone Award, as well as the Diapason d'Or and two ECHO Klassik awards.

    In addition to their concert careers, the four musicians are professors at the Universität der Künste in Berlin and at the Chapelle Musicale Reine Elisabeth in Brussels.

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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 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.”  

Program Notes
This performance is part of Chamber Sessions II.

Part of