Smetana - String Quartet No 1 in E minor (From My Life)
Type of Spiritual Experience
String Quartet No. 1 ("From My Life", Czech: "Z mého života") in E minor, written in 1876, is a four-movement Romantic chamber composition by Czech composer Bedřich Smetana.
It was given a private premiere in 1878 in Prague, with Antonín Dvořák as violist, and its public premiere took place on 29 March 1879, performed by Ferdinand Lachner, Jan Pelikán, Josef Krehan and Alois Neruda.
After becoming deaf, Smetana moved in 1876 from Prague to Jabkenice. He still hoped that the handicap would not be permanent. In the autumn of that year, he began to compose a new work. It was to be his intimate confession, a work depicting the course of his life, "... using four instruments speaking among themselves in something like a friendly circle".
He completed the composition on 29 December 1876. In a letter to his friend Josef Srba, Smetana formulated the work's ideological conception and the features of the individual movements.
The work is semi-autobiographical and consists of sketches of periods from Smetana's life, as is suggested by its subtitle Z mého života ("From My Life"). Its notable features include a prominent viola solo at the very beginning of the first movement, and a high, sustained harmonic E on the first violin in the last movement, which represents the ringing in his ears that presaged Smetana's deafness, although the actual ringing was a chord in A-flat major.
The cycle consists of four movements:
- Allegro vivo appassionato - The first movement is an expression of the composer's romantic ideals in life and in his music.
- Allegro moderato à la Polka - In the second movement the polka style recalls happy and convivial memories of his youth.
- Largo sostenuto - The third movement is of great emotional depth, a paean to love, which transcends the adversities of fate and finds harmony in life.
- Vivace - In the last movement the composer describes the journey that led to an understanding of the true essence of national art, only to be interrupted by the catastrophe of his incipient deafness. The end is almost resigned, with only a small ray of hope for a better future
A description of the experience
Dec 31, 2014
0:00 I. Allegro vivo appasionato
8:00 II. Allegro moderato a la Polka
13:47 III. Largo sostenuto
22:11 IV. Vivace. Meno presto
Violin I Jiří Novák
Violin II Lubomír Kostecký
Viola Milan Škampa
Cello Antonín Kohout
Smetana Quartet: Bedrich Smetana, String Quartet N.1 in E minor ("From My Life")