Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven
Dvořák, Richter
Janáček Suk

MIECZYSLAW WEINBERG: In search of Freedom
Quintet for pianoforte, two violins, viola & cello in F minor Op. 18 (1944)
String Quartet No. 10, Op. 85
String Quartet No. 13, Op. 118

The music of Mieczyslaw Weinberg (1919 - 1996) is among some of the 20th century's greatest hidden treasures. Born in Poland, Weinberg emigrated to Russia in perilous circumstances, where he was to live out the rest of his days in the shadow of his close friend Dimitry Shostakovich, by whom he was regarded as one of the most outstanding composers of the day, Weinberg is slowly being rediscovered as a 20th century genius, a figure of immense significance in the landscape of post-modern classical music.

Weinberg's musical idiom stylistically mixes traditional and contemporary forms, combining a freely tonal, individual languageinspired by Shostakovich with ethnic (Jewish, Polish, Moldovian) influences and a unique sense of form, harmony and colour. His prolific output includes no less than 17 string quartets, over 20 large-scale symphonies, numerous sonatas for solo stringed instruments and piano as well as operas and film-scores. With the constant stream of recordings, score publications and concerts over the last decade, many of these gems have been unearthed to finally receive the critical praise and attention they deserve. Here, the Zemlinsky Quartet prove themselves to be the worthy successors of the Borodin Quartet.

String Quartet no.10 in E flat major, Op.51
String Quartet no.11 in C major, Op.61

Usual pairing of two scores that precede the period when the composer of the famous "American" Quartet (no. 12) was in his prime. Combining rhythmic invention, which ennobles the natural vigor of a reinvented folklore, bright colors shaded by the importance of the viola part, and a spontaneous melodic outpouring that contrasts with the absorbing melancholy of the slow movements, they give voice to a na stonishing feeling of eternal youth and plenitude despite a number of personal dramas that the composer had undergone. It is as though their irresistible animation formed the image of a modern Dvořák approach in this full string quartets collection.

String Quartet no.8 in E major, Op.80
Drobnosti (Four Miniatures or Bagatelles) Op.75a
Cypresses, complete cycle for string quartet B.152

An unusual compilation of chamber music by the composer of the New World symphony, featuring non well-know pieces singing old love tradition of his master Czech chamber music. Inventive rhythms with the vividness of revisited folklore, the haunting melancholy of the slow movements, instrumental Lieder The Czech Zemlinsky Quartet, as his elders, Pražák, today, Smetana and Prague City Quartets yesterday, are singing in their tree.

Read review at musikzen.com (French)
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String Sextet No.1 in B flat, Op.18
String Sextet No.2 in G, Op.36

BRAHMS imposed the sextet form, with the sweetness and variety of colours of summer and autumn, as well as the power and brilliance of a string orchestra, owing to the importance of the low registers. Mendelssohn had revealed its possibilities of luminous, dreamy summer fêtes, Brahms the intensity of loves (The Lovers) then the innate nostalgia of the voices of violas and cellos, which allow for remaining under the spell of autumn activities and colours. Reger and Schönberg would be his sole heirs.

Pavel HŮLA, Vlastimil HOLEK, violins
Josef KLUSOŇ - viola, Michal KAŇKA - cello
Petr HOLMAN - viola, Vladimír FORTIN - cello

Review in Diapason (French).
Review in The Strad (English).

String Quartet No. 12 in F Major Op. 96 "American"
String Quartet No. 14 in A flat Major Op. 105
Tercet in C Major Op. 74

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Spain Through Strings

JUAN CRISÓSTOMO DE ARRIAGA (1806-1826): String Quartet No. 3 in E flat major
JOAQUÍN TURINA (1882-1949): La Oración Del Torero Op.34, for string quartet
EDUARDO TOLDRÁ (1895-1962): Vistal Al Mar, original version for string quartet (1920)
MARIO CASTELNUOVO-TEDESCO (1895-1968): Quintet for guitar and string quartet, Op.143

(Miriam RODRIGUEZ BRÜLLOVÁ – guitar)

An original selection of Spanish works for quartet, from that of Arriaga (1823), a precocious genius who died at the age of 20, up to the consecration (1950) of the guitar as a classical partner, thanks to the meeting of Castelnuovo-Tedesco and Andrés Segovia.

Read review in The Strad (English)
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String Quartet No.9 in D minor, Op.34 B. 75 (1877-78)
String Quartet No.13 in G major, Op.106 B 192 (1895)

Two scores that frame the period when the composer of the famous 'American’ Quartet (No.12) was in his prime. Combining rhythmic invention, which ennobles the natural vigour of a reinvented folklore, bright colors shaded by the importance of the viola part, and a spontaneous melodic outpouring that contrasts with the absorbing melancholy of the slow movements (sublimation of the dumka), they give voice to an astonishing feeling of love and plenitude despite a number of personal dramas that the composer had undergone. It is as though their irresistible animation formed the image of a people that was going to become a nation once again in 1918.

Read a review at La Presse (French)
Read a review at www.crescendo_magazine.be (French)
Read a review at www.audaud.com (English)
CD of the Week on CBC.ca (English)

String Quartets No.3 in G major, Op.26, G 63, ‘Slavonic’
String Quartet No. 4 in A minor, Op.64, G 103
Idyll for French Horn and string quartet ( Christoph Ess - Horn)

Homage to Glazunov who taught classical art to Russian composers of the 20th century and revealed chamber music to a community favouring choral and lyric art. His ‘cosmopolitan’ students (Stravinsky, Prokofiev…) and his heirs from the interior (Miaskovsky, Shostakovich, Weinberg…) were thus able to be major players in the contemporary world. His own works are now being rediscovered and appreciated for the perfection of their craftsmanship, like those of a Russian Mendelssohn singing in his genealogical tree.

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String Quartets No.2 Op.15 and No.4 Op.25, Two Movements for String Quartet (1927)

In one word, Webern summed up the evolution of each of Zemlinsky’s four quartets: Aufbruch (departure) corresponding to No.1, Op.4 and getting out from under Brahms’s shadow; Wende (the turning point) for No.2, Op.15, an Expressionistic block of gigantic Mahlerian proportions and a single motto theme; Reduktion of the epic dimension but not of the burlesque, sardonic grin in No.3, Op.19; and Maskenspiel (mask game) for No.4, Op.25, a ‘lyric suite’ in homage to Alban Berg, imbued with Schubertian clarity and transcended Classicism.

Read a review in Classica (French)
Read a review in Diapason (French)

String Quartet Masterworks of the First Viennese School:

J. HAYDN: String Quartet in C major, Op.76 no.3 ‘Emperor’
W. A. MOZART: String Quartet no. 19 in C, K.465 ‘Dissonance’
L. van BEETHOVEN: String Quartet in B flat major, Op.18 no.6 ‘La Malinconia’

There’s nothing quite like a Czech string quartet. The Zemlinsky are in the great Bohemian tradition, playing with a fullness of tone and a combined naturalness and care for phrasing and note values that give delight in all three works recorded here*. The Haydn has superb energy, and breadth and tenderness in the “Emperor” variations; in the Beethoven, the quick movements are crisp and bristling with vitality, and the two adagios deeply expressive. *Perhaps best of all is the Mozart *— wonderfully gleeful in the opening allegro, delicate and passionate in the beautiful andante, incisive in the minuet, stormy in the trio and fleet-footed in the finale. Mozart said his “Praguers” understood him. These ones surely do.
/David Cairns, Sunday Times, 25 September 2011/

Read a review in Classica (French)
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On this CD you will find early chamber music by A. Zemlinsky: "Maiblumen blühten überall" for soprano and string sextet (Zemlinsky Quartet, Prazak Quartet, Lucie Hájková), Two pieces for string quintet (ZQ, Josef Klusoň - viola), Cello sonata in A minor, Three pieces for cello and piano (Vladimír Fortin - violoncello, Jaromír Klepáč - piano).

Read a review in Ensemble (German)
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String Quartets Op. 44/1 & 44/3, Op. 81/1 & 2

In these years of 1837-38, Mendelssohn was at the height of his humanist glory, concurrently violinist, violist, pianist, composer, conductor (of the Gewandhaus in Leipzig), still a painter in his already too-rare spare time, and a newlywed… ‘At the moment, everything comes so easily and so nicely under my pen’, he wrote, this exemplified by the Opus 44 Quartets with their radiant, virtuoso allegros and slow movements tinged with nostalgia— irresistible ‘songs without words’ for strings.

Read a review at www.audaud.com (English)
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Viktor Kalabis (1923-2006):
String Quartets No. 1-3 (Kocian Quartet)
String Quartets No. 4-7 (Zemlinsky Quartet)

A tribute to Viktor Kalabis, one of the greatest Czech composers of the latter half of the 20th century, close friend of Jindřich Feld (1925-2007) and František Kovaříček (b.1924), who lived through both the German occupation and the communist era. The musician admired French culture, adored Stravinsky’ Russian and French periods and Bartok's values and felt at ease with the symphonic and concerto forms. He also composed seven intimate Quartets from 1949 onwards, his last one in 1993. With his wife, the harpsichordist Zuzana Růžícková, he shared his love of Bach. He was also influenced by painters such as Marc Chagall and Ota Janeček, and he dedicated many years of his life to promoting the work of Martinů, and helped found the Martinů Institute.

Read a review in Classica (French)

String Quartet Op.44/2
String Quartet Op. 80
Capriccio Op. 81/3

The Quartet in E minor, a favourite key of Mendelssohn’s, was written on his honeymoon journey. Its immediate success barely outlived him, although its formal perfection served as a model for Schumann (Op.41), Brahms, Smetana, Dvořák and even Tchaikovsky, who drew the essentials of their art of the quartet from it. The Zemlinskys, trained in the double Czech and avant-garde schools, restore its purity of style and forgotten modernity, as in the final Opus 80, a veritable ‘Requiem for Fanny’, the beloved sister who died in May 1847, and for himself, who would follow her to the grave on 4 November.

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String Quartet No.1
String Quartet No.3
String Quartet No.6

The composer of Julietta left seven string quartets that do not, by any means, form a cycle but rather a succession of testimonies stretching from 1920 to 1947. This second volume – the first is on PRAGA 250 205 - juxtaposed the French Quartet (no.1, performed by Zemlinsky Quartet), a lengthy and luxurious, homage to Debussy and Dvořák, the shortest (no.3) ‘pocket’ Quartet and the Sixth (both performed by Prazak Quartet) written in the post-war utopia, a fantastic counterpoint of madrigals for strings with astonishing polymelodicism, introduction da camera to last Symphony no.6 (Symphonic Fantasies, 1951-53), with his earnest, struggling character and high symphonic spirit.

Read a review in Gramophone (English)

String Quintet Op.12
String Quartet Op. 18

The Zemlinsky Quartet together with The Prazak Quartet celebrates the 200th anniversary of Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy. On this CD you can find String Quartet in E flat major Op. 12 (The Prazak Quartet), String Quintet in A major Op. 18 and Minuetto in F sharp minor (The Zemlinsky Quartet + Josef Klusoň).

Read a review at www.audaud.com (English)
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Read a review in Klassik (German)

FRANZ SCHUBERT: Early works for string quartet

In January 2008, another 4-CD set recorded by Zemlinsky Quartet was published. This time, Praga Digitals brought the attention of the ensemble to the early works by Franz Schubert. The recording contains 11 string quartets from the first period of the composer´s life. In addition, we can find here the well-known Quartet Movement C minor D. 703, coming together with the less-known 41-bars-long fragment of its second movement. This time, the publisher used a painting by P. Renoir for the cover of the CD.

Read a review in Klassik (in German)

String Quartets No.1 and No.3

In March 2007, The Zemlinsky Quartet released new project - string quartet No.1 in A Major op.4 and string quartet No.3 op. 19 by Alexander Zemlinsky.

Read a review in Gramophone (English)
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ANTONÍN DVOŘÁK: Early works for string quartet

Since 2007, the Zemlinsky Quartet records exclusively for French publishing company Praga Digitals (Harmonia Mundi distribution). The first project was a recording of early works for string quartet and the viola quintet op. 1 by A. Dvořák (with Josef Klusoň - violist of the Pražák Quartet). The set of 4 CDs was released in January 2007, and it immediately gained a big success - it received the important French prize "Diapason d´Or" in March.

Read a "Diapason d´Or" review (French)
Read a review at www.parutions.com (French)
Read a review at American Record Guide (English)
Read a review in The Strad (in English)
Read a review in Classica (in French)
Read a review at Classics Today (French)
Read a review in Fanfare (French)
Read a review in Monde Musique (French)
Read a review in Ensemble (German)

JOSEF SUK: String Quartets

This CD was recorded in a Danish edition Classico. The manager became interested in the possibility of recording the (almost) complete string quartets by Josef Suk (the only missing are the second version of the last movement of quartet No. 1 and an early Barcarola). This CD was recorded in Prague in February 2004 and it was reviewed in the January 2005 issue of The Strad.

A. Dvořák, L. Janáček, J. Suk, F. X. Richter

First CD of Penguin Quartet: On March 28, 2003, the new CD of Penguin Quartet was released! It was recorded in February 2003 by Bohemia Music with music director Jiří Gemrot and sound engineer Jan Lžičař. The graphic design was made by Flashstudio. The CD contains string quartets by the most famous Czech composers. You can find here String Quartet F major Op. 96 "American" by A. Dvořák, String Quartet No. 1 "Kreutzer sonata" by L. Janáček, Meditation on an Ancient Czech Chorale "Saint Wenceslas" Op. 35a by J. Suk and String Quartet C Major Op. 5/1 by F. X. Richter. This CD was reviewed in the February 2004 issue of The Strad.