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
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