Thanks to its untiring and exceptionally successful artistic career, the Dolezal Quartet has acquired a place among the top elite chamber ensembles. Since its founding in 1972 by viola player Karel Dolezal, the ensemble has been given sundry awards at international competitions, prestigious concerts and festivals. The ensemble was the winner of the Prague Spring quartet competition in 1975, it won a silver medal at a competition in Bordeaux and 1989 won a prize awarded by the Czech Association for Chamber Music within the Czech Philharmonic. The Dolezal Quartet undertakes a number of foreign tours every year and its interpretation of the music it performs, grown from the roots of the world famous Czech quartet school, is highly valued in many countries. The ensemble is frequently invited back to perform in European countries and it received also an exceptionally warm reception overseas. The Dolezal Quartet recorded many CD's with the music of A. Dvorak, B. Smetana, L. Janacek, W.A. Mozart, L. van Beethoven, etc.
Pavel Vranicky (1756-1808) belonged to the numerous Czech musical colony in Vienna. He was appreciated there: from 1790 he had been a general director of all Viennese imperial opera orchestras. At the same time, he was a renowned violin player and conductor to whom Beethoven entrusted the premiere of his 1st symphony. Also Haydn wished his oratorium "Creation" to be always directed from the first-violin post by "Herr Sekretaer Vranicky" referring to his role in "Tonkuenstler Societaet".
This wittnesses that Pavel Vranicky was in the center of the Viennese musical life. However, the original idea of his carreer was completely different: his education aimed at making him priest. He attended a Premonstrat Latin School at his birthplace, Nova Rise in Moravia, and later a Jesuit Gymnasium (high school) in Jihlava. He proceeded to theological studies in Olomouc and continued in Vienna, but there his life took an unexpected twist. He could not renounce the lure which accompanied his life from the childhood. His meeting with Joseph Maria Kraus, a court conductor from Stockholm, gave an impetus to solving his dilemma in favor of music. For several years he worked as "Kappelmeister" for Count Esterhazy in Galanta. After that he moved to Vienna where he met his younger brother Antonin, a later "maestro" of the Lobkowicz orchestra in Roudnice.
Creativity and invention of Pavel Vranicky was extraordinary: he composed "Singspiele" and operas (of which "Oberon" is most known) as well as numerous orchestral and chamber pieces - more than fifty symphonies, five concertos, scores of trios, quartets, and quintets. At least 72 of his string quartets are known today. This productivity was required by the manners of that time. Quartets were played by professionals and amateurs, both in the nobility and the burgeois environments, thus demand for new compositions was high. Vranicky quartets were among the most popular as we can see from the number of their reprintings. Without doubt, he was one of remarkable personalities of his period.
Antonin Dvorak (1841-1904) need not be probably introduced to the listeners. The "Cypresses" were written in April and May 1887 when Dvorak transformed his songs into a quartet form. The original composition he did at the age of 24 using the poetry of Gustav Pfleger-Moravsky. More than twenty years later as a mature composer he returned to the subject and created from the melodic song material an original cycle of independent quartet movements. The collection contained 18 songs, Dvorak rewrote twelve of them preserving the vocal line but assigning it to the first violin or (in three cases) to viola. The original piano accompaniment was distributed among the other voices. Although Dvorak expressed his satisfaction with the result, the cycle was played only several times during his life, and the complete edition was published only in 1921 following the initiative of another well-known Czech composer, Josef Suk, Dvorak's son-in-law. We will listen to a selection of the cycle.
A late love of Leos Janacek (1854-1928) was a driving force which brought to life some of his most remarkable compositions, such as "The diary of a lost one", the opera "Katya Kabanova", or the String Quartet No.1. If a certain intimity is inherent to quartet music and composers often use this form to express the most private thoughts, Janacek's String Quartet No.2 "Confidential Letters" fits this description perfectly.
It is the last finished work of the composer which was written during a twenty-day period at the beginning of 1928, the last year of Janacek's life. The quartet was inspired by his love to Mrs Kamila Stosslova which paid no respect to the age difference and social conventions. The music illustrates the depth of the composer's passion, but the original title "Love letters" was after all changed: Janacek remarked that "he did not want to throw his feelings to fools." The "Letters" were first played privately by Moravian Quartet in the composer's appartment; the first public performance took place only after his death, on September 11, 1928 in Brno. The String Quartet No.2 is regarded as one of the most remarkable achievements of 20th century chamber music.
Updated: March 4, 1998