ΤΑ ΜΕΛΗ ΤΗΣ ΟΜΑΔΑΣ
"ΑΚΟΥΤΕ ΚΛΑΣΙΚΗ ΜΟΥΣΙΚΗ; ΕΓΩ ΑΚΟΥΩ"
“My intention was to paint a tone picture of my life. The first movement depicts my youthful leanings toward art, the Romantic atmosphere, the inexpressible yearning for something I could neither express nor define, and also a kind of warning of my future misfortune . . . The long insistent note in the finale owes its origin to this. It is the fateful ringing in my ears of the high-pitched tones which in 1874 announced the beginning of my deafness. I permitted myself this little joke, because it was so disastrous to me. The second movement, a quasi- polka, brings to mind the joyful days of youth when I composed dance tunes and was known everywhere as a passionate lover of dancing. The third movement . . . reminds me of the happiness of my first love, the girl who later became my wife. The fourth movement describes the discovery that I could treat national elements in music and my joy in following this path until it was checked by the catastrophe of the onset of my deafness, the outlook into the sad future, the tiny rays of hope of recovery, but remembering all the promise of my early career, a feeling of painful regret.”
True to his words, the quartet spans a wide range of distinctive music featuring Bohemian dance in the polka of the second movement and a tender love song to his departed first wife in the third movement. But the two outer movements vividly express in music what Smetana could only hint at in his literary explanation. The quartet opens with some of the most dramatic and unforgettable music found throughout the chamber literature: a devastating theme of tragic fate that dominates the first movement, goes dormant, and reappears in the coda of the finale. After the dance, the love song, and the initial robust brightness of the fourth movement sonata, this autobiographical quartet catches up to the reality of Smetana’s contemporaneous life. Introduced by a pregnant silence, then a disturbing high-pitched harmonic in the first violin, the dark and inevitable theme of catastrophic fate returns to finish the narrative, not with a grand, conclusive cadence, but with a fadeout, the sound gradually disappearing from our ears just as it must have for Smetana himself.
1919 illustrated cover of the score of Bedrich Smetana's The Bartered Bride