Jerusalem Quartet, Smetana & Janacek String Quartets
BY GREGO APPLEGATE EDWARDS
Bedrich Smetana and Leos Janacek wrote marvelous string quartets that simultaneously captured autobiographical elements and also made brilliant use of folk and folk dance elements, all transformed into powerful personal vehicles of pre- and early-modern expression. The Jerusalem Quartet have captured the excitement of the strong rhythmic dynamics, the idiosyncratic elements and the singing qualities of the compositions in a superb manner on their recent three-work disk (Harmonia Mundi 902178).
Included are Smetana's Quartet No. 1 in e minor "From My Life", plus Janacek's Quartet No. 1 "Kreutzer Sonata" and Quartet No. 2 "Intimate Pages".
These are near-ideal performances with virtuoso articulations that capture and bring out the pristine combinations of unforgettable motifs and ethnic brio. The four have drawn a finely detailed portrait of all three quartets to emphasize the salient structural features of the architecture of each movement and colored the sound with a vivid palette that makes a shining eloquence out of it all.
I've enjoyed all three quartets for most of my life and I must say I favor this Jerusalem Quartet version as at or near the top of versions I've heard. They do great justice to the demands and soaring heights that all three works summon.
If you don't have these quartets you are in for much enjoyment. Jerusalem's way with the Janacek is worth exploring even if you have other versions. In short, a triumph, a glowing beacon to guide us ahead! Don't miss this one.
Read this article on Gapplegate Classical-Modern Review