Czech Modern composer Jaroslav Krček [born 1939] wrote four string quartets. I am going to discuss the First, which is in four movements.
The work opens with a throbbing cello and smatterings of violin, occasionally interrupted by an Eastern sounding motif. This is modal music as the violins sweep across the harmony defined by the cello. A brief pause changes the mood completely as a tempo is formed by a further rhythmic motif from the violins. This is sustained for several minutes to a conclusion.
The next movement, marked lento features all instruments droning in a descending manner – this is a magical sound. Now melodies are heard from some instruments. A quivering cello sets up a section of a blend of violin lines which reach out, forming a blissful melody with the violins literally pleading. The music edges forward with the violin wonderfully sonorous, before reaching into its upper register. A brief pause introduces a rhythmic pizzicato cello and the violins invoke a previously heard melody; the cello stops. A new mood is set up with a fade to the end.
The third movement opens with an attractive slightly abstract violin melody which leads into a section of pizzicato. Now a rhythmic cello moves the music forward and a brief interlude of double time ensues before leading back into the first melody. A new section is rooted in folk music with violins being very busy in a call and response manner with an answering cello. The end is sharp.
A searing violin sets up the final movement, while one violin drones in a subtle manner. The cello can also occasionally be heard with long, held tones. The violin searches for a melody, which is not forthcoming. Now a tempo is set up with a rhythmic motif as all instruments move the music forward. A degree of dissonance follows a drop in intensity until a return to the opening melody and feeling is heard, this time sprinkled with ostinatos. Again there is a sharp conclusion.
The four quartets are defined by their modal nature and ethnic roots. They are similar to some of the music of John Tavener.
The review CD Jaroslav Krček: String Quartets Nos. 1-4 is performed by the Czech Philharmonic Quartet on the Arco Diva label. It has only been out for a year but has become unavailable already. There is a download version at Presto Music.
Listenability: Simply marvellous, with a distinctive character.