Josef Bohuslav Foerster
String Quartet No.4 in F Major, Op.182
Josef Bohuslav Foerster's String Quartet No.4 dates from 1944. It was composed some 30 years after No.3 at which time Foerster was 85 years old. For that reason alone, it is an amazing work which shows the vigor of a man decades younger. The opening movement, Allegro grazioso, begins with a short viola solo. The themes which follow are lush and tonally rich with an occasional doff of the cap to modern tonalities. In the middle movement, Andante cantabile--allegretto malinconico, is quite lyrical until the middle section which presents a nice contrast with its Czech folk melody and dance rhythm. The finale, Allegro, is bright and upbeat.
Josef Bohuslav Foerster (1859-1951) was born in Prague and first studied with his father who was a leading organist and Professor at the Prague Conservatory. Foerster studied organ at the Prague Organ School and composition at the Conservatory. Upon graduation he took over from Dvorak as chief organist in one of Prague's leading churches. He was on friendly terms with all of the leading Czech composers and was initially influenced by Smetana and Dvorak. He worked as a music critic in Hamburg after marrying the leading Czech soprano who was engaged at the Hamburg opera. In Hamburg, he met and became close friends with Mahler as well as Tchaikovsky. When Mahler left for Vienna, Foerster followed him and became a professor at the New Vienna Conservatory. After the formation of the Czech Republic in 1918, he returned to Prague where he taught for many years at the Conservatory. His music while initially influenced by Smetana and Dvorak, later changed as did musical styles, although he always remained a tonal composer. After his first period, his works no longer could be considered nationalistic as he stopped employing the idioms of Czech folk music and adopted a more perstonal and mystical style. He composed in most genres and left a considerable amount of chamber music including five string quartets and three piano trios.
This Quartet is an excellent example of early modern Czech music. It certainly deserves concert performances but is not at all difficult technically and can also be recommended to amateurs.