JANACEK Quartet No 1 'Kreutzer Sonata' ( 19′ 28″ )
Takács Quartet: Edward Dusinberre (vln), Karoly Schranz (vln), Geraldine Walther (vla), Andras Fejer (cello)
Chamber Music New Zealand
Recorded by RNZ Concert in the Wellington Town Hall
7 July 2012
Introduction to Janacek's Quartet No 1 ( 4′ 32″ )
Edward Dusinberre of the Takacs Quartet introduces Janacek's Quartet No 1 'Kreutzer Sonata'.
Edward Dusinberre (violin)
Károly Schranz (violin)
Geraldine Walther (viola)
András Fejér (cello)
Recognized as one of the world's great ensembles, the Takács Quartet plays with a unique blend of drama, warmth and humour, combining four distinct musical personalities to bring fresh insights to the string quartet repertoire.
In 2012, Gramophone announced that the Takács was the only string quartet to be inducted into its first Hall of Fame, along with such legendary artists as Jascha Heifetz, Leonard Bernstein and Dame Janet Baker. The ensemble also won the 2011 Award for Chamber Music and Song presented by the Royal Philharmonic Society in London. Based in Boulder at the University of Colorado, the Takács Quartet performs ninety concerts a year worldwide, in North America, throughout Europe as well as in Australia, New Zealand, Japan and South Korea.
Appointed in 2012 as the first-ever Associate Artists at Wigmore Hall in London, the Takács will present six concerts per season there. Other European engagements include performances in the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, the Musikverein in Vienna, and the Musée d'Orsay in Paris.
Image: Takács Quartet
Copyright: Patrick Ryan
Born Hukvaldy Moravia, 3 July 1854 | Died Moravska Ostrava, 12 August 1928
Quartet No 1 ‘Kreutzer Sonata’
I. Adagio II. Con moto III. Con moto IV. Con moto
Janáček spent most of his life as a music teacher, and was not internationally known until late in his life. In 1885 he began collecting Moravian folk songs, and notating the rhythms and inflections of speech in the area. These studies culminated in his 1905 opera Jenůfa, the first Czech opera to be composed in prose. The work was immediately popularity in Brno, but it was the première in Prague in 1916 that brought Janáček to international attention. He produced his most significant works at a rapid pace after that.
Both of Janáček’s string quartets are concerned with fateful passion and love, with the Quartet No 2 ‘Intimate Letters’ documenting his unrequited passion for a younger woman. The Quartet No 1 ‘Kreutzer Sonata’ was composed in one week in late 1923, and is a work of emotional and dynamic extremes. It was inspired by Tolstoy’s short story ‘The Kreutzer Sonata’, in which a man tells a fellow passenger on a train journey the tragic story of his marriage - the rhythm of the train and the oppressive atmosphere creating a forbidding background. The husband relates how he introduced a violinist to his pianist wife but is later overcome with jealousy and stabs her to death. A despairing opening theme sets the scene for the whole work, and even the first movement’s vigorous Russian-style melody, which the performers are instructed to play ‘sharply’, has a spiteful quality. The first Con moto (with motion) opens with a self-confident melody, but the fragmented accompaniment and abruptness of the music dispel any thoughts of happiness. A tremolo passage is played sul ponticello - near the bridge of the instruments, at the harshest part of the strings.
The canon in violin and cello that begins the third movement is initially calm, but is soon disturbed by further use of the sul ponticello effect. An anguished recalling of the opening theme marks the beginning of the final movement, and the work concludes with a forceful ostinato, marked ‘ferociously’.
Image: First Page of Tolstoy's Short Story 'The Kreutzer Sonata' depicting the jealous husband attacking his wife with a knife after discovering her affair with a violinist.