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KALLIWODA // The 3 String Quartets

Talich Quartet,

The various chamber and orchestral releases of Kalliwoda’s music have turned out to be among the truly sensational discoveries of 2006. These three quartets live up to the high expectations created by such works as the Third, Fifth, and Seventh symphonies.


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The music is tuneful, rhythmically charged, soulful, texturally fascinating, and easy on the ear, but never trivial. Do you think Tchaikovsky was the first guy to try an all-pizzicato scherzo? Check out String Quartet No. 1’s third movement. The spirit of Czech folk music hovers over the trio, with its drone bass effects, as it also does in the delicious finale of the Third Quartet, which features an imaginative use of harmonics. And all of this in 1834! We are so far away from the soggy Germanic solemnity of, say, Schumann or Brahms, neither of whom is at his best in the string quartet medium.

By contrast, Kalliwoda wears his learning lightly. Several movements feature extensive fugal writing, but it’s never dry or labored and it always serves to create textural contrast. The tunes of the slow movements are also really beautiful (check out Quartet No. 2), often hovering between major and minor in vintage Schubert/Slavic fashion.

In short, these are immensely enjoyable works, and the Talich Quartet plays them with obvious relish. Given the unfamiliarity of the music, and the hope that other quartets will take these pieces into their active repertoires without delay, it’s a bit of a risk to give this release a highest rating; these quartets have more to offer than any single performance, however lovely and well recorded, can reveal. But such is the interest of the repertoire that I can’t recommend this release highly enough, and if something just as fine (or even better) comes along, then lucky us!

String Quartet no.1 in E minor, op.61 (1835)


  • Allegro moderato 9’19
  • Allegro. Scherzo 7’55
  • Adagio 3’22
  • Vivace 5’20


String Quartet no.2 in A major, op.62 (1836)


  • Allegro vivace 9’21
  • Scherzo. Presto 2’54
  • Adagio 4’03
  • Vivace 3’39


String Quartet no.3 in G major, op.90 (1838)


  • Moderato 10’53
  • Scherzo. Vivace 5’55
  • Adagio 5’53
  • Alegretto grazioso 7’31

In its forty-five year history, the Talich Quartet, which performs all over the world, has included a number of prestigious Czech musicians.

Talich. The very name conjures up the banks of the Moldau, much loved by Smetana and the residents of Prague. Jan Talich, who founded the quartet in 1964, is the nephew of Vaclav Talich, who conducted the Czech Philharmonic orchestra between 1919 and 1939, achieving giddy heights even before the baton was handed over to Karel Ančerl.
In 1970, Jan Talich handed over the reins to the great violinist Petr Messiereur. Alongside the founder on the viola, the quartet comprised Petr Messiereur and Jan Kvapil on violins and Evzen Rattay on the cello. With this new line-up, the ensemble achieved great success with a national, international and contemporary repertoire.
The success of the first performance given in Paris in 1975 at the invitation of the AMc led to its first invitation to play in the United States in 1976, and an award from the Charles Cros Academy in 1977 for its mythical interpretation of Antonin Dvořàk’s American quartet.

Its back catalogue includes the complete sets of Mozart and Beethoven’s string quartets, Mozart’s string quintets and string quartets by others including Smetana and Janáček.

Taking on the legendary name, the new generation Talich Quartet has been in existence since 1997, when it was given renewed impetus by Jan Talich Jr. It gives concerts worldwide and is still considered to be one of the best contemporary quartets.

The musical style, approach and philosophy of the Talich Quartet are revealed in its international award-winning back catalogue”.

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