Monday, October 25, 2010

Janáček's Confidential Letters

Here is the first recording of the last major work by Leoš Janáček, his String Quartet No. 2 of 1928 (subtitled "Confidential Letters" on the record labels, though nowadays more commonly translated as "Intimate Letters").  The quartet, like many of the works of Janáček's last ten years, was inspired by his unrequited love for Kamila Stösslová, a married woman 38 years his junior, and its title was Janáček's own.  It is played in this recording by the Černý Quartet, which was really the Prague String Quartet - however, the recording was made during the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia, and the Nazis forbade "nationalistic" names for native organizations, so the ensemble became known after its violist, Ladislav Černý (1891-1975).  The other players were Alexander Plocik and Herbert Berger, violins; the cellist was either Iwan Vectomov or Josef Simandl.

Janáček: String Quartet No. 2 ("Confidential Letters")
Černý Quartet
Recorded April 5, 1943
Ultraphon G 12968 through G 12970, three 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 57.03 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 24.63 MB)

About two years ago I posted an earlier Prague String Quartet recording, which I have re-uploaded:

Dvořák: String Quintet in E-Flat, Op. 97
Prague String Quartet with Richard Kosderka, second viola
Recorded November 17, 1937
Victor Musical Masterpiece set DM-811, four 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 100.61 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 54.5 MB)

As you all can see, I am back after my hiatus with the Bach Brandenburg. It went reasonably well, despite the fact that a string broke on my harpsichord just minutes before the concert, as I was tuning it. I don't think I'll be playing the harpsichord again any time soon. Temperamental beasts, they are. I've even changed my picture on this blog from one of me playing the harpsichord to one of me as I looked when I began seriously collecting 78-rpm records. I love the Brandenburg #5 and would gladly play it again, but the next time it will be on a modern piano. After all, if Cortot, Serkin, Lukas Foss and Murray Perahia could play it, beautifully, on the piano, why can't I? Their recordings, especially Cortot's, blow all the harpsichord recordings of the piece out of the water. If only Artur Schnabel had recorded it! - it was in his repertoire.


  1. Bryan,

    I love these wartime Czech recordings! So much history, and hardship, is captured in these precious shellacs. Downloading...NOW!


  2. Beautiful interpretations. You post some treasures again, thanks for sharing!

  3. Beautiful! There's such velvety shimmer in the violin sound - amazing transfers. Thanks!

  4. Thanks so much for these transfers!
    One can never have enough of the
    Prague/Cerny Quartet or their
    predecessors, the Bohemian Quartet.

  5. Bryan, thanks for the Cerny of SQ #2. Do you have th Ondricek of
    #1, to complete the set?

    On a technical note I desperately want help. Need to know how to
    upload pix from new digital camera to laptop so I can send 'em to friends & family via e-mail. No bloody manual w/bloody laptop, and staff at emporium where bought either can't or won't be bothered to take - what? - 5 min to show me. It looks like you do something like it with your label & text material on your uploads. Will be
    MOST grateful for any help you ca give!

    Mike Harkin

    1. Post Script:-

      Bryan, Forgot to mention, I have Linux rather than Windows,
      if that makes a difference....

      Mike Harkin

    2. Mike, sorry don't have Ondricek #1. As for the pix, I don't even have a camera, I use a scanner for all label pix. The images go straight onto an SD card which I then insert into the laptop and copy them there. Surely your camera must store the pix on a similar card?