General information
Title CZSmyčcový kvartet č. 2
Title ENString Quartet No. 2
Title DEStreichquartett Nr. 2
Title FRQuatuor à cordes n° 2
CategoryChamber Music
SubcategoryString Quartets
Halbreich number150
Parts of the composition (movements)1. Moderato - Allegro vivace 2. Andante 3. Allegro
Durata19' 30''
InstrumentsVl Vl Vla Vc
Diplomatic transcription of the dedicationDem Kvartett [sic!] Novák-Frank gewidmet
Note on the dedicationNovák-Frank Quartett
Place of compositionParis
Year of origin1925
Completion of composition30.09.1925
First performance
Date of the first performance12.11.1925
Location of the first performanceBerlin
Note on the first performancePremiere of the first version of the quartet: 4th August 2020, Festival Moritzburg; Nathan Meltzer, Mira Wang (violin), Sindy Mohamed (viola) a Andrei Ionita (cello).
Ensemble Novák-Frank Quartett
Novák-Frankovo kvarteto
Autograph deposition
InstitutionUniversal Edition
OwnerUniversal Edition
Note on the autograph depostitionFascimile of the autograph and printed score with Martinů's autograph dedication located at the Bohuslav Martinů Centre in Polička.
CopyrightUniversal Edition, Vienna
Purchase linkbuy
Universal Edition, Vienna, 1927
Call number at the BM Institute: 1238
Specification of the edition: 1st edition - parts
Details of this edition
Universal Edition, Vienna, 1979
Call number at the BM Institute: 1238 kp, 1238a
Specification of the edition: Reprint of the 1st edition from 1979, pocket score
Details of this edition
References Related writings
Documents in the Library
About the composition

Bohuslav Martinů composed String Quartet No. 2 for a relatively long time (the more than eight months). Last year’s fresh discovery of the previously unknown first version of the composition, dated “Février 1925” on the title page of the part of the first violin, sheds light on this enigma – in the given period, Martinů had composed two whole quartets that differ entirely, bar the slow second movement.The present owner, the cellist Jan Vogler, procured both autographs from a dealer of rare manuscripts in Florida, without any prior information that this was the unknown early form of the composition. As soon as he realised this, he immediately contacted the Bohuslav Martinů Institute, which had the work professionally transcribed following approval by Universal Edition Wien, which holds the publishing rights to the final version of the quartet. Its present-day premiere took place on 4 August 2020 at the chamber music festival in Moritzburg, Germany,

The first version’s terseness and dissonance places it closer to String Trio No. 1, H 136 (1923), than to the final form of String Quartet No. 2. It features frequent alternations of metre, melodic phrases oscillating around mutually divergent tone cores, strong dissonances stemming from distinctively chromatic harmonies, polytonality, the occasional parallel progression of parts, the segmentation of musical developments in brief, detached blocks. It is a supremely intriguing work, stylistically inclined towards the contemporary tendencies of Neue Sachlichkeit, that is, marked to a certain extent by deliberate objectivity and considerable impersonality. It is also characterised at times by its almost symphonic texture.

In the first movement of the original version of String Quartet No. 2, Martinů exposes the main theme, which is much closer to Petrushka than the aforementioned “broken triad” in the introduction of Half-time, H 142. The theme in question is from the “Dance of the Coachmen” in the fourth tableau of Stravinsky’s ballet. It is characterised by a descending melody in the range of a fifth, which is reminiscent of the melodies of Russian folk songs. The same distinctive theme is also the basis for the second movement, although it is so thoroughly augmented that it does not provoke any direct association with Stravinsky’s “Dance of the Coachmen”, which is possibly why Martinů retained it in the final version of the work without any change at all. Not so in the third movement, where Martinů again returned too noticeably to the main theme of the first movement, and it may be presumed that for this very reason he radically reworked it in the second version of String Quartet No. 2.

The second version is dedicated to the Novák-Frank Quartet and, with this piece, Martinů not only won the admiration of his composing colleagues (Paul Hindemith often played the work with his Hindemith-Amar Quartet, and Iša Krejčí hailed it as an ideal expression of the musical programme adopted by the “Mánes” group of composers), but he also acquired his first contract with Universal Edition, a leading foreign publishing house based in Vienna. has an excellent instrumental setting and is also flawless from the point of view of compositional technique. All three movements are legibly articulated into clearly arranged sections. 

The final version was performed in its world premiere by the Novák-Frank Quartet in Berlin on 12 October 1925, a mere thirteen days after it was completed. Frequent subsequent performances in some of the world’s most illustrious concert halls helped to secure Martinů a strong position in international music circles.

Aleš Březina, Martinů Revue, 3/2020

« previous
ID 396 (entry 1 / 0)
next »