Franz Liszt, writing about Grieg's String Quartet No 1, declared: 'It is long time since I have encountered a new composition, especially a string quartet, which has intrigued me as greatly as this distinctive and admirable work by Grieg'. Grieg himself said that his quartet '… aims at breadth; to soar, and above all at a vigorous sound for the instruments for which it is written.' In 1891, Edvard Grieg started his second quartet, but sadly lacked inspiration and time to finish the last two movements. Levon Chilingirian of the Chilingirian Quartet has studied the original manuscripts of the first two movements (which have many clarifying instructions added by Julius Röntgen in preparation for their printing by C F Peters in 1908) and prepared the third and fourth movements especially for this recording. This is therefore a first recording of the completed String Quartet No 2.
This premiere recording by the Pavel Haas Quartet has quite a bit going for it. For starters, the programming is intelligent – something that's always appreciated. Here are two string quartets written by teacher (Janácek) and student (Haas); in fact, both works were given their premiere by the same ensemble (the Moravian Quartet). The liner notes do a nice job of pointing out these and other connections as well as describing the programmatic content of the two works. The ensemble is filled with youthful energy and passion, which is reflected in the music.
Second in popularity only to the Ninth Symphony "From the New World," Dvorák's Twelfth String Quartet – which was dubbed the "American" Quartet by the public and media rather than the composer himself – is a work nearly synonymous with the composer's tenure in the United States. These were not the only two works inspired by his cross-sea voyage, however. The Thirteenth String Quartet in G major, Op. 106, though not imbued with the same folkloric characteristics, also came about following the composer's return from the States. The popularity of the "American" Quartet has resulted in a work that is arguably overplayed, making it difficult for new ensembles to find anything new or unique to say about it.