1923, 1926, 1928, 1996, Music

Intimate Letters (1996) by the Juilliard String Quartet

This disc compiles both of Janacek’s string quartets with Berg’s “Lyric Suite”, a six part quartet. It is named after the second of Janacek’s quartets.

Not named after the Beethoven piece but rather the Tolstoy story inspired by that Beethoven piece, Janacek’s first quartet is perhaps my favourite of all of his music that I’ve heard. It’s got compelling melodies but risky flirtations with the more avant garde music of his contemporaries; it manages to sound both traditional and brave at times throughout, and that’s something I always appreciate.

The second quartet gets off to a very different start than the first, almost haltingly in the beginning.  It’s a pretty piece, but it’s definitely less forward-thinking than his first. I find it extremely nice to listen to but, for me, it’s not up in the top tier of quartets from the decade.

Berg’s suite is just a fantastic early example of serialism at work. It provokes and delights in equal measure and it’s a wonder that people thought music like this – that is, this beautiful – was somehow bad, or problematic, or whatever insult various traditionalists threw at the serialists. This is just a great work and, for me, one of the great string quartets of the 20th century. I real pleasure.

The disc as a whole is a really strong collection of 1920s string quartets. It’s highly recommended.


  1. String Quartet No. 1 (after Leo N. Tolstoy’s “The Kreutzer Sonata”): I. Adagio 4:29
  2. String Quartet No. 1 (after Leo N. Tolstoy’s “The Kreutzer Sonata”): II. Con Moto 4:38
  3. String Quartet No. 1 (after Leo N. Tolstoy’s “The Kreutzer Sonata”): III. Con Moto – Vivace – Andante – Tempo I 4:11
  4. String Quartet No. 1 (after Leo N. Tolstoy’s “The Kreutzer Sonata”): IV. Con Moto – Adagio – Maestoso. Tempo I 5:47
  5. String Quartet No. 2 “Listy Důvěrné”: I. Andante 6:51
  6. String Quartet No. 2 “Listy Důvěrné”: II. Adagio 6:33
  7. String Quartet No. 2 “Listy Důvěrné”: III. Moderato 5:34
  8. String Quartet No. 2 “Listy Důvěrné”: IV. Allegro 8:32
  9. Lyric Suite: I. Allegretto Gioviale 3:06
  10. Lyric Suite: II. Andante Amoroso 6:06
  11. Lyric Suite: III. Allegro Misterioso – Trio Estatico 3:33
  12. Lyric Suite: IV. Adagio Appassionato 6:10
  13. Lyric Suite: V. Presto Delirando – Tenebroso 5:12
  14. Lyric Suite: VI. Largo Desolato 6:14

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