Antonín Dvořák – Complete String Quartets

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:

String Quartet no. 1 A Major, op. 2, B8
Cypresses for String Quartet, B152
String Quartet no. 14 A flat Major, op. 105, B193

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"

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"

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

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.