String Quartet No.1 in B Flat Major, Op.11
Josef Suk (1874-1935) was born in Krecovice in southern Bohemia, then part of Austria. He studied piano, violin and organ with his father who served as village choirmaster. His exceptional talent led to his being enrolled at the Prague Conservatory in 1885 at the age of 11 where he first studied violin. Eventually, he became a composition student of Antonin Dvorak. He graduated in 1891, and kept up a friendship with Dvorak, whose daughter he married in 1898.
He formed what became the world famous Bohemian Quartet with three of his fellow students . Suk played second violin with the Quartet for most of his life. From 1922, he taught at the Prague Conservatory. Among his many students were the composer Bohuslav Martinu and the pianist Rudolf Firkusny. Suk served as the Conservatory's director after 1924, on and off, until the end of his life.
Suk's early works show the influence of Dvorak, and to a lesser extent, Brahms, but are nonetheless highly original in conception. His First String Quartet dates from 1896 and while one hears echoes of Dvorak in the opening Allegro moderato, structurally, the working out of the themes in very unconventional and the use of the instruments to create polyphonic effects is well beyond Dvorak's own writing. The energetic second movement, Tempo di Marcia, is both Czech and original sounding. Little of Dvorak can be found here although in the lovely Adagio non troppo, at times, we hear the intimacy and highly charged personal musical language of Suk's teacher. But in the bright and clever finale, Allegro giocoso, the makings of the modern Czech school can clearly be heard.
This is a first rate string quartet which deserves to be heard in concert and is highly recommended to professionals looking for a post-Dvorak work with some Czech modernism in it. Competent amateurs will also get much enjoyment from this music.
Parts & Score: $31.95