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This recording presents music by the Czech composers Janáček, Martinů, and Haas, all of whom were prominent figures in their country’s musical history during the early twentieth century. The works are performed by the Janáček Chamber Orchestra, which has won awards for their interpretations of Czech music.
Janáček wrote his String Quartet No. 1 during a particularly creative period towards the end of his life. It took its inspiration from Tolstoy’s novella The Kreutzer Sonata, a portrait of a loveless marriage. The dramatic power and deep emotion of this work, coupled with some extraordinary textures and eccentric orchestration, place it among the greatest string quartets ever written. It is here played in a version for string orchestra. Also recorded is the Suite, one of Janáček’s very first works for orchestral ensemble.
Pavel Haas was considered the most gifted of all of Janáček’s many students. A composer of Jewish descent, he was transported to Auschwitz in 1941, where he died in 1944. The Study for String Orchestra was written in the summer of 1943 for the Auschwitz camp string orchestra, and the first performance of the work is preserved in part in a German propaganda film.
After Janáček, Martinů was the leading Czech composer of the last century. A highly prolific composer, he often wrote at great speed and the prize-winning Sextet for Strings is no exception. It was written in just seven days in May 1932. This work displays a real exuberance, from the energetic opening movement through to the spirited finale.
Leos Janacek: Suite, JW VI/2
III. Andante con moto
IV. Presto - Andante - Presto
Bohuslav Martinu: String Sextet, H. 224a (version for string orchestra)
I. Lento - Allegro poco moderato
II. Andantino - Allegretto scherzando - Andantino
III. Allegretto poco moderato
Pavel Haas: Study
Leos Janacek: String Quartet No.1, JW VII/8, "Kraytserova sonata" (The Kreutzer Sonata) (arr. R. Tognetti)
II. Con moto
III. Con moto
IV. Adagio con moto
“The Janacek Chamber Orchestra is 11 or 12 players strong, but sounds larger. It produces a rich tone, with evident enthusiasm for the varied textures that all the composers require in different ways; and their idiomatic style, especially in the Janacek Suite, is a joy...the Haas study is a treat, and it's good to find it in a relatively mainstream programme.”
“even at this stage of his career [Janacek] was forming a voice and had a fine ear for sonorities. This is well caught by the excellent chamber orchestra that takes his name, and by this recording. The arrangement of his First String Quartet gives the group something to play and is cleverly done”
7th July 2011
“The centrepiece of this disc is Pavel Haas's Study, written in 1943 in the concentration camp at Terezín...Its quality is undeniable, and while we should never forget the circumstances in which it was written, it also seems right that Haas's music should be placed alongside works by both his teacher Janáček and his exiled contemporary Martinů...The Janáček Chamber Orchestra's performances make up in excitement for what they occasionally lack in finesse.”
Click on any of the works listed above for alternative recordings.