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JANÁČEK, SCHULHOFF // 3 String Quartets

Talich Quartet,

These are glowing performances.


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The restrained, sympathetic playing of the Talich Quartet in both Janáček quartets, plus the warmth and balance of this recording make this an uplifting, highly desirable disc. The Talich’s instinctive feel for the music and mutual understanding shines through every bar, and its pacing is beautifully judged.
The First Quartet by Erwin Schulhoff proves a considerable bonus. The ending is pure enchantment.


Leoš Janáček // String Quartet no.1, ‘Kreutzer Sonata’


  • Adagio. Con moto 4’00
  • Con moto 4’10
  • Con moto. Vivo. Andante 3’54
  • Con moto. Adagio. Più mosso 5’11


Leoš Janáček // String Quartet no.2, ‘Intimate Letters’


  • Andante 6’04
  • Adagio 6’09
  • Moderato 5’32
  • Allegro 7’25


Erwin Schulhoff // String Quartet no.1


  • Presto con fuoco 2’09
  • Allegretto con moto 3’06
  • Allegro giocoso alla Slovacca 3’08
  • Andante molto sostenuto 6’13

‘These are performances to rival, even surpass, The Lindsay’s for sheer urgency… this new issue surely has to figure on the shortest of future short lists‘


In “Surprised by Beauty,” Robert R. Reilly praises “both of Janáček’s two string quartets [as] masterpieces. They evoke, in Janáček’s words, ‘exaltation, passionate declarations of love, anxiety, indomitable yearnings’. They are among the most nakedly emotional works ever written.” Fortunately for the listener, there has not been a dearth of good recordings of these quartets. The music is so good, it rarely get less than the best from the performers that tackle it. Still there are emotional favorites and performances of such vitality and perfection that they knock your socks off. The Talich Quartet’s performances (also one of Reilly’s recommendations), in generous acoustic, are among them.

They are finally back in print, since the La Dolce Volta label tenderly and lovingly takes care of the catalog of the Calliope label. Their re-issues are more lovingly made than the originals ever were. Still, what makes this so special—even among the many La Dolce Volta re-issues of the Talich Quartet catalog this year—is the inclusion (as on the original release) of First String Quartet of Erwin Schulhoff which elicited this praise at its 1924 premiere: “I defy anyone… to match the tempestuous pace of the first movement, its natural musicality, its clarity, and its homophony” (Erich Steinhard). That still applies in every way—Schulhoff’s works for string quartet are masterpieces on par with the best of the 20th century and the Talich Quartet’s rendition of the First String Quartet is still the finest around. Regardless which (Schulhoff or Janáček) you’d consider the bonus to the other, this is a most attractive disc.

The Talich Quartet, a Bohemian soul


‘The Conservatory of Europe’ – that used to be the nickname of Bohemia. At the heart of central Europe, a people dedicated itself wholly to the art of melody. In the nineteenth century, when Czech musicians were recognised as great composers as well as performers, they gave birth to a repertory steeped in traditions, its inspiration passed on from generation to generation.


Václav Talich, a conductor of genius, was one of the most prominent central European artists in the following century. In 1964, Talich’s nephew Jan founded the string quartet that bears his name. In 1975 it became a chamber ensemble of the Czech Philharmonic, a distinction that quickly gained it international recognition. France became its second home, and thanks to the Calliope label it made some of the great benchmark recordings in the quartet discography, from Mozart to Janáček. La Dolce Volta has since taken up the torch and pursues an adventure too exciting to be interrupted.


For half a century now, even though the bows have changed hands, the quartet’s personality has displayed marked stylistic continuity: spontaneous expressiveness, delicious unpredictability of attack, telling accentuation of folk rhythms, absolute precision and, equally, a sensation of miraculous fragility. Throughout the years, the Talich Quartet has remained the ambassador of a prodigious musical history, nourished by the memory of the torrents and castles of Bohemia, of tales and legends, and of the passions of the Czech people even before it was established as a nation in the aftermath of the First World War. The quartet’s multi-award-winning recordings mirror their interpretation of Janáček’s Second Quartet, ‘Intimate Letters’: the most enchanting of conversations in music.

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