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Takács Quartet

Bedrich Smetana:
String Quartet no.1 in E minor 'From my life'

Alexander Borodin:
String Quartet no.2 in D major.

Smetanaąs String Quartet no.1 in Eminor, composed in 1876 is the first
example of a consistently programmatic work for string quartet. Smetana
described it in a letter to J. Srb/Deebrnov dated 12th April 1878. He did
not wish to write a string quartet along conventional lines, but rather to
allow the autobiographical material to dictate the design. Smetana wanted
the quartet to represent the course of his life, and in particular the onset
of his deafness, with which he struggled from 1874 onwards. Nonetheless the
piece does conform to a standard four movement scheme.

Smetana describes the first movement as depicting a love of art in his
youth, an unspoken romantic yearning and a premonition of his approaching
deafness and misery. The second movement OQuasi Polkaą refers to the more
carefree days of his youth, when he composed many dances and loved to dance
himself. The third movement  OLargo Sostenutoą portrays his first idyllic
love for the young girl who later became his wife. In the fourth movement
the composer rejoices at the advancement of Bohemian national music, until a
sudden high E harmonic in the first violin announces the coda; the harmonic
represents the high-pitched noise in his ear and the beginning of his
deafness. The coda contains a recollection of happier days which gives way
to resignation at his sad future. The idea is sometimes expressed that music
with a program of this sort is necessarily limited, but in Smetanaąs quartet
the program seems to lead to extraordinary dramatic intensity.

Borodinąs String Quartet no.2 [1881] is also programmatic to an extent.
Borodin dedicated the quartet to his wife Ekaterina, and the music evokes
the early period of their romance. The sunny expansiveness of the first
cello melody and its answer in the first violin, is maintained through much
of the quartet, and makes a sharp contrast to the tragic intensity of
Smetanaąs quartet. The quality of yearning and tenderness in the first and
third movements never approaches the strife and despair in Smetanaąs
writing. The cello features prominently in the quartet; Borodin was himself
a keen cellist, and we can imagine that the violin responses to the cello
melodies in the first and third movements represent his wife.

The second movement is a delightful, fleeting scherzo reminiscent of
Mendelssohn, with a deliciously lilting second theme. The opening of the
famous Notturno is wistful, but this famous theme is treated in many
different keys and registers, covering a range of emotion from melancholy to
the ecstatic. The opening of the fourth movement has a similar pyschological
progression to the last movement of Beethovenąs Opus 135. Mysterious
questions give way to a chirpy, chattering theme which the different
instruments throw around with great abandon.

­ Edward Dusinberre

The Takács Quartet

The Takács Quartet was formed in 1975 in Budapest and since 1985 has been
Quartet in Residence at the University of Colorado, Boulder. As well as
performing over ninety concerts worldwide each season, the Quartet is
well-known for its recordings, winning a Gramophone Award for the complete
Bartok Quartets and Grammy nominations for the Bartok and Schubert Trout
Quintet cds. The Quartet has recorded works by Haydn, Mozart, Brahms,
Schubert, Dvorak, Borodin, Smetana and Chausson on the Decca label, and is
currently recording the entire Beethoven quartet cycle.

Photo: Steve J. Sherman

        BEDRICH SMETANA  1824­1884
        String Quartet No.1 in E minor "Z mého zťivota"
        "From my life" · "De ma vie" · "Aus meinem Leben"
        mi mineur · e-Moll · mi minore

1    I    Allegro vivo appassionato    6.46
2    II    Allegro moderato ŕ la Polka    5.17
3    III    Largo sostenuto    7.41
4    IV    Vivace    5.38

        ALEXANDER BORODIN  1833­1887
        String Quartet No.2 in D major
        ré majeur · D-Dur · re maggiore
5    I    Allegro moderato    7.51
6    II    Scherzo: Allegro    4.25
7    III    Notturno: Andante    7.00
8    IV    Finale: Andante Vivace    6.51

        Edward Dusinberre violin
        Károly Schranz violin
        Roger Tapping viola
        András Fejér cello

Producer:   Christopher Pope
Recording engineers:   Simon Eadon, Philip Siney
Recording editor:   Timothy Bull
Recording location:   Evangelische Kirche, Honrath, Germany, 28 November - 1
December 1995
This recording was monitored on B & W Loudspeakers
Art direction:   David Chase

CP2002 ARTEK, All rights reserved. Unauthorized duplication is a violation
of applicable laws.

Licensed from Decca Music Group Limited, a division of Universal Music
First released by London/Decca in 1996.

Printed in USA · Made in USA


® 1996 The Decca Record Company Limited, London
© 1996 The Decca Record Company Limited, London

Licensed from Decca Music
Group Limited, a division of Universal Music Group.

Cover: Takács Quartet
Photo: Nick White

CD is made in USA
Printed in USA. Made in USA

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