Album detail
Catalogue number: SU 4232-2

Petr Eben was one of the most distinguished Czech composers of the second half of the 20th century. His music gained recognition far beyond the Iron Curtain and his homeland. Best known for organ and sacred works, his chamber pieces have – unjustly – been somewhat overlooked. Eben’s music reflects his fascinating life story. At the age of 15, he was deported to the Buchenwald concentration camp, where he got to know the thin line between life and death. His harrowing experiences there resulted in an emboldening of his Christian faith, approach to people and art alike. The new Supraphon CD (SU 4232–2), made by the renowned Martinů Quartet and the pianist Karel Košárek, features Eben’s String Quartet, “The Labyrinth of the World and the Paradise of the Heart”; Piano Trio; and a premiere recording of the Piano Quintet.

The cellist Jitka Vlašánková, a member of the Martinů Quartet, commented on the new Supraphon album, which has been released both on CD and digitally, as follows: “The Labyrinth of the World and the Paradise of the Heart is Petr Eben’s one and only string quartet. It was commissioned by the Smetana Quartet, who would premiere and record it. I have heard that the ensemble were not entirely happy with their recording, yet I personally believe that their feeling was utterly subjective, rather pertaining to its technical quality. Nonetheless, for many years the idea of making a new recording of the piece, extraordinary both in terms of musical expression and technical performance, was in the air. Given the exceptional nature of the work, we felt greatly honoured to have had the opportunity to undertake the task. We had previously explored numerous Czech and international 20th- and 21st–century compositions, yet Eben’s music is utterly singular, also bearing witness to which are the other pieces included on our new album. The Piano Quintet was commissioned by the globally celebrated Nash Ensemble, which gave its premiere. Yet the making of its first recording seemed to have been waiting for us. Eben did not aim to attain compositional virtuosity and perfection per se, he strove to convey his state of mind, to communicate a philosophical idea, to create a musical image as a labyrinth and paradise alike. And Eben’s one and only Piano Trio was a splendid supplement to the album.”

The pianist Karel Košárek said: “Even though it may sound like a cliché, it is true – when musicians understand each other as professionals and humans, it is the most ideal combination, as is clearly evident in the outcome. I felt privileged to have been afforded the opportunity to perform and work on the album with the Martinů Quartet, just as I am really pleased and happy that the CD has been named ‘Labyrinth’. The title precisely represents that which I feel when playing these Eben pieces for some time – a journey to a clearly set destination, whose nooks bring about a new picture, new view and emotion, as well as beauty in a variety of forms.”

The Martinů Quartet’s first concert in the forthcoming autumn season will be at the Musique de Chambre en Pays de Gex festival in France, where, alongside the superlative violist Pierre-Henri Xuereb, they will give two performances of Antonín Dvořák’s Quintet, Op. 97. In September, the ensemble is scheduled to appear at a Haydn festival in Belgium, together with the oboist Vilém Veverka. In November, in the Czech Republic and in Switzerland, the Martinů Quartet will perform Sergey Taneyev’s fas­cinating Piano Quintet, which two years ago they recorded with the American pianist Olga Vinokur and included on a Supraphon CD that met with lavish critical acclaim.

The album was recorded with support from the State Fund of Culture of the Czech Republic and the Town of Žamberk.