Sinfini Music Best Chamber Album of the Year (2015)
Recording of the Month, MusicWeb International (2015)
*****, Classical Ear (2015)
BBC Music Magazine Chamber Award (2016)
Bedřich Smetana - String Quartet No. 1 in E minor "From My Life" (1876), String Quartet No. 2 in D minor (1882-83)
Pavel Haas Quartet: Veronika Jarůšková - 1st violin, Marek Zwiebel - 2nd violin, Pavel Nikl - viola, Peter Jarůšek - cello
After their Janáček quartets and their award-winning Dvořák (Gramophone Award 2011 "Recording of the Year"), the Pavel Haas Quartet have now put all their energy to the service of the music of Bedřich Smetana. Even though his chamber music is very modest in scale, each of these works can be said without exaggeration to be a foundation stone of Czech chamber music. They are personal works, often with a strong autobiographical element. He wrote both quartets towards the end of his life when he was already suffering from deafness. The first quartet, "From My Life", is programmatic: "I wanted to express musically the course of my life… The composition is almost entirely private, and so intentionally written for four instruments that should talk together - as if they were a close circle of friends - about the things that have shaped me so significantly." Quartet No. 2 seems almost to belong to the 20th century in the unconventionality of it's composition - something that greatly disturbed Smetana's contemporaries. For the Pavel Haas Quartet, Smetana's music is an obvious and clear choice, not a sudden revelation; it is "only" the concept of the music itself that is revelatory. The Quartet doesn't try to make itself stand out in some superficial, external way - it doesn't bet on extremes. It's originality comes from its efforts to penetrate to the very core of the work and from the thrilling and comprehensive way in which it achieves this. So, how does our immortal Smetana sound in the twenty-first century? You will find the answer on this stunning recording.
"From My Life" - Classic Smetana, inward-looking and timeless, as heard by the Pavel Haas Quartet.
“The PHQ understand absolutely the plasticity of Smetana’s vision and convey it unerringly, unshrinkingly – and in some ways even more convincingly than the Talich, which is saying something. This is extraordinarily bold playing – and they truly capture the sense that Smetana is writing symphonic quartet music.” Gramophone, May 2015
“In their native repertoire they are well nigh incomparable. I have not heard an account of “From My Life”…that prepares us so starkly, in its turbulent opening Allegro vivo appassionato, for its tragic outcome…And it’s hard to imagine a more compelling or harrowing take on the less frequently programmed D minor quartet.” The Sunday Times, 3rd May 2015
“These are definitive performances in which nothing is taken for granted, enhanced by a resonant acoustic which gives opulence to the weightier sections… These performances set a new standard and reveal so much of what makes these quartets unique.” BBC Music Magazine, July 2015
“In the autobiographical No 1 what captivating lyrical ardour and devastating emotional candour these superlative young players display … a disc to treasure.” Classical Ear, July 2015
“There's a current of joy here, both in the act of music-making and in the artists' evident love of the music itself.” Sinfini Music, November 2015
“The Pavel Haas Quartet plays the two quartets with tremendous drive. The music sounds wild, raw, full of accents and partly quite sharp. Instead of surrendering to the Czech richness of colour, the four musicians present the two string quartets as precursors of modernity.” Pizzicato, December 2019