The Smetana Quartet very quickly became one of the ensembles linking up to the tradition and legacy of the members of the Czech Quartet. Together with other ensembles – the Vlach Quartet, Janáček Quartet and Prague City Quartet – it was instrumental in the “Czech quartet school” attaining its unique position, dominated by refinement of sound, stylistic purity, technical precision, sensitivity for leading the musical phrase and an extraordinary sense of interplay. The Smetana Quartet, which launched its great interpretational career by winning an award within the 1950 Prague Spring International Music Competition, was for the period of 43 years one of the world’s leading ensembles. Its superb performances were captured on more than 150 gramophone records, the ensemble gave thousands of concerts in some sixty countries throughout Europe, America and Asia, and was repeatedly invited to the most prestigious festivals and recording studios. From its establishment in 1945, the Smetana Quartet played in the following line-up: Jiří Novák (1st violin), Lubomír Kostecký (2nd violin), Václav Neumann (to 1946), Jaroslav Rybenský (1947–1955) and Milan Škampa (from 1956), viola, Antonín Kohout (violoncello). When performing quintet compositions, the Smetana Quartet was frequently joined by the pianists Jan Panenka and Josef Hála, the violinist Josef Suk and the clarinettist Vladimír Říha.