This recording presents music by the Czech composers Janácek, Martinu, 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 Janácek Chamber Orchestra, which has won awards for their interpretations of Czech music.
Janácek 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 Janácek’s very first works for orchestral ensemble.
Pavel Haas was considered the most gifted of all of Janácek’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 Janácek, Martinu 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.