Bohemian musical heritage comes to Newton Abbot. Czechia’s wonderful ensemble, the Wihan String Quartet, is returning to Newton Abbot for what promises to be an outstanding performance of three masterpieces of Czech musical heritage.
They will perform Smetana String Quartet No 2 in D Minor, Dvorak String Quartet in E flat Major, Op 51 ‘Slavonic’ and Janacek String Quartet No 2 ‘Intimate Letters’ Consisting of virtuosos Leoš Čepický and Jan Schulmeister on violins, Jakub Čepický on viola, and Michal Kanka on cello, the Wihan Quartet has been cited by the International Record Review as “one of the best quartets in the world today’’.
Captivating audiences globally
Celebrating their musical journey of over three decades, the quartet has ceaselessly captivated audiences globally with their performances. Smetana is regarded in his homeland as the father of Czech music, so it is fitting that the Wihan Quartet perform one of his quartets. They have chosen String Quartet No 2 in D Minor, his last, written in 1883 (in defiance of his physician’s orders to refrain from all musical activity) and only a year before his death in an asylum.
History and culture
It is now highly regarded within Czech music history and culture. His earlier career had blossomed at a time of burgeoning Czech identity, but it was only in his final decade, the most fruitful of his compositional career despite his deafness and increasing illhealth, that Smetana belatedly received national recognition.
Dvorak, however, gained recognition early in his career. He is the most internationally well-known Czech composer. He wrote his String Quartet in E flat Major, Op 51 ‘Slavonic’ in 1879 at the age of 38. This commissioned work is full of contentment and joy, as well as Czech rhythms, dances and eloquent melodies. Prior to 1874, Dvorak was an impoverished composer, unknown beyond Prague. It was his winning of the Austrian State Prize in the following and subsequent years (one of the judges being Johannes Brahms) that gave him the financial security to concentrate on composition. In his late 30s and 40s, he visited Austria, Russia, Britain, and lived in New York for three years.
Janacek was a highly gifted child and young composer, but it is his later works that are most celebrated today. His String Quartet No 2, ‘Intimate Letters’, is an emotional tour de force – searing in parts: haunting, yearning, languid in others.
Composed in the final year of his life, 1928, it is full of youth and vitality, inspired by his overwhelming and obsessive passion for Kamila Stosslova, a much younger married woman, to whom he had written hundreds of letters. This highly charged work contains within it her musical portrait.
top image: Courtesy of Petra Hajska
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