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Leoš Janáček: String Quartet No. 1

  • after Tolstoy's ‘Kreutzer sonata’ (1923)
  • for string quartet
  • Duration: 18’
  • Instrumentation details:
    1st violin
    2nd violin
    viola
    violoncello
  • Composer: Leoš Janáček
  • Subject: Leo Tolstoi
  • Editor: Milan Skampa
  • Table of contents:
    Adagio
    Con moto
    Con moto
    Con moto

Work introduction

Taking its impulse from the composer’s earlier piano trio on the subject (now lost), Janáček composed with Tolstoy’s bitter tragedy The Kreutzer Sonata in mind.

The novella tells of an adulterous woman and the homicidal reaction of her husband. Janáček – locked in a loveless marriage and pining for another woman – was drawn to its sorrowful tale. The composer’s 1900 copy of the novella is littered with annotations and comments. But most articulate is the resulting score.

Like the later “Intimate Letters”, it is a shifting kaleidoscope of powerful aphoristic themes. And although the quartet’s intense lyricism and the title recall the Viennese tradition of Beethoven and his successors, Janáček’s passion is wholly unique.

© Gavin Plumley (excerpt taken from the Newton Classics CD 8802072)

Reproduction of the text in any form is only permitted with prior written permission of the author.

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