Between 2007 and 2014, the Zemlinsky Quartet recorded the complete works for string quartet by the most recognized and perhaps most beloved Czech composer, Antonín Dvořák. The ensemble appears to be only the fourth group in history to undertake such a big and demanding project.
Dvořák’s first four string quartets were composed while he was still a student. They were quite extensive in length as the composer practiced and experimented with various composition techniques and skills – for example, his first quartet in A major was about 65 minutes long. Later, Dvořák revisited his first string quartet and thought that it contained valuable musical ideas so he revised the score. Thanks to his revisions, the duration of the first quartet was edited down to a more reasonable 32 minutes…
But Dvořák did not consider his quartets No. 2, 3, and 4 good enough, and decided to destroy them. What he did not know, was that one more copy of each of these scores existed, which thankfully, preserved these three early works so that they can be performed to this day. When Czech musicologists prepared the critical edition of these early string quartets, they presumed that if Dvořák had wanted these works to be performed, he would have revised them in the same way as he did for his first string quartet. Thus, in the critical edition of these three early string quartets, musicologists have suggested cuts in similar fashion to the ones that Dvořák made to his first quartet, so that the duration of these quartets are more reasonable and could be performed in concert.
The three previously recorded complete Dvořák cycles contain the full lengths of all the string quartets. However, the Zemlinsky Quartet decided to record all the early quartets with the cuts, to make the comparison between the long and short version available. All the string quartets in the Zemlinsky Quartet‘s recordings of the Dvořák cycle are between 25-40 minutes in length, which makes it possible to have three quartets performed in each concert over five concerts for the complete Dvořák cycle.
Suggestion of program:
1) String Quartet no. 1 A Major, op. 2, B8
Cypresses for String Quartet, B152
String Quartet no. 14 A flat Major, op. 105, B193
2) String Quartet no. č. 2 B flat Major, B17
String Quartet no. 8 E Major, op. 80, B57
String Quartet no. 12 F Major, op. 96, B179 "American"
3) String Quartet no. 3 D Major, B18
String Quartet no. 6 a minor, op. 12, B40
String Quartet no. 10 E flat Major, op. 51, B92 "Slavonic"
4) String Quartet no. 5 f minor, op. 9, B37
String Quartet no. 7 a minor, op. 16, B45
String Quartet no. 11 C major, op. 61, B121
5) String Quartet no. 4 e minor, B19
String Quartet no. 9 d minor, op. 34, B75
String Quartet no. 13 G Major, op. 106, B192
The number of concerts could be extended to 6, adding two or three other compositions by A. Dvořák, namely Movement F major, Viola Quintet Op. 97, Piano Quintet Op. 81, String Sextet Op. 48, and/or Terzetto Op. 74.
Zemlinsky Quartet 25th anniversary in 2019
In 1994, four young musicians willing to do chamber music met to form a string quartet based mostly on good fun. Rehearsals were irregular but frequent, and on April 19, 1995,
the Penguin Quartet performed three challenging pieces in its Prague debut concert.
(Yes, František Souček, the first violinist, was 14 years old at that time…)
After 25 years, the Zemlinsky Quartet (taking a new name in 2005, with only one personal change in 1999) developed into one of the leading ensembles of its generation. With more than 1200 concerts, more than 20 CDs, more than 250 chamber music works in the repertoire, the ensemble represents now the strong Czech string quartet tradition all over the world.
In the spring of 2020, to celebrate its 25 years of existence, the Zemlinsky Quartet will repeat the same concert in Prague as it happened in April 1995. Therefore, the ensemble also offers this concert to everyone who would be willling to include the celebration of 25 years of the quartet in their concert series or festival.
Program of the concert:
Franz Schubert: Quartet Movement C minor Op. Posth.
Dmitri Shostakovich: Adagio and Polka for String Quartet
Alexander Borodin: String Quartet No. 1 A major
(The concert includes moderation and possibly also video recordings.)
Projects for the 2019-20 season