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From My Life

concert number 24



Bedřich Smetana String Quartet No. 1 in E minor From My Life [29’]
I. Allegro vivo appassionato
II. Allegro moderato à la Polka
III. Largo sostenuto
IV. Vivace
Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy String Octet in E-flat major, Op. 20 [33’]
I. Allegro moderato ma con fuoco
II. Andante
III. Scherzo. Allegro leggierissimo
IV. Presto

Concert description

Classical music is generally viewed as “pure” music – the interplay of sounds arranged in artful forms. Symphony was placed at the top of the hierarchy of genres. Beethoven revolutionized this genre with his Symphony No. 9 in D minor featuring soloists and chorus. In this way, the role of the main absolute genre was taken over by the string quartet – although Beethoven began to change this as well, including a puzzling question and answer in a manuscript of his String Quartet Op. 135: Muss es sein? Es muss sein! (Must it be?It must be!).

In Romanticism, symphony and chamber music developed in the direction of both the absolute and the programmatic style. Two years before Beethoven’s death, 16-year-old Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy wrote his first acclaimed work, the Octet for two string quartets. This youthful piece is full of verve, joy, and hope. The programmatic, autobiographical quartet From My Life was written at the mature age by Bedřich Smetana. In it, he dealt with his deteriorating health and cultural heritage (there is, for example, a Viennese waltz). The sound of the flageolet in the last movement is meant to resemble the screeching he was to hear before – like Beethoven – losing his hearing.

– Dominika Micał, “Ruch Muzyczny”