The String Quartets, Complete Set
The Stamic Quartet: Vitezslav Cernoch, Josef Kekula--violin, Jan Peruska--viola, Vladimir Leixner--cello, Radovan Lukavsky--recitation.
Production: Rudolf Bayer.
Text: Eng., Ger. Recorded: 1-12/1996, Hall of the Community of the Bohemian Brethren in Prague-Kobylisy. Released: 2006.
TT: 67:07, 63:36, 62:18, 72:02. DDD. 4 CD Bayer-Records BR 100 282-5 CD (distribution Euromusica).
The Stamic Quartet's complete recording of Alois Haba's sixteen string quartets, together with two other pieces for quartet, was made in 1996. Back then the Stamic Quartet performed all Haba's quartets for the Prague Spring Festival and their series of Haba concerts was one of the festival's high points. It was assumed that the recording would exploit the momentary wave of interest in Haba's work and help to overturn prejudices about the indigestibility of his "off key music". But this failed to happen and the complete set of 4 CDs has come out only after a ten year interval. Why the delay? This is something only the firm Bayer-Records knows. It should of course be said that it is a good thing the complete set has finally come out, but questions arise about how the distribution agency is promoting it ... The set is clear proof that Haba's music is not "off key" even though it requires a very sensitive ear, and is on the contrary very diverse in style, from the romantically expansive first quartet to the last "Webernesque" quartet. Unfortunately, dissatisfaction and disappointment is mixed with "better late than never" relief. The Stamic Quartet achieved a great feat just by taking the task on, there are few opportunities for comparison (the quartets nos. 11, 12, 15, 16 exist on CD performed by the Novak Quartet), and the interpretation is extraordinarily painstaking but at the same time full of the feeling of spontaneous musicianship that can never be denied in Haba's works. From the technical point of view as well, the recordings are of high quality--the director was Milan Slavicky and the sound director Stanislav Sykora. Also praiseworthy is the inclusion of the Six Pieces for Sixth-Tone Harmonium (or String Quartet) op. 37 in Johannes Kotschy's arrangement and the Diary Entries (Tagebuch-Notizen) op. 101 on texts by Renata Pandulova, although Radovan Lukavsky's strongly Czech diction in recitation of the German text will probably not go down well in German-speaking areas and it would have been better to engage a German actor. …