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Janáček’s First String Quartet is one of the summits of his art. But it was equalled,

and possibly surpassed, by the second. At seventy-four, Janáček was still full of

vitality and the joy of living. In 1928, the year of his death, in love more than ever

with Kamila, he wrote one of his last and greatest masterpieces, the Second String


In under three weeks it was ready, and three months later, on 18 and 25 May 1928, it

was performed at Janáček ‘s own home at Hukvaldy. Initially entitled ‘Love letters’,

this quartet is the composer’s final tribute to Kamila. The mood of the quartet is

never serene or happy, however, but constantly and deeply tense.

The four movements of this work show economy in the use of intervals, the

rhythms are fragmented, the melodies broken, but the overall structure gives

unity, as does the grace of the performance.

After a nervous, violent introduction, the first movement expresses conflicting

impulses, ascending then descending, creating a feeling of urgency and dramatic

necessity. The second movement has the same intensity as the first; then the third

movement brings a contrast with its mood of nostalgia and contemplation. The

final movement expresses a surge of love from a heart that was still young and

passionate, and was to remain so to the end.