- Václav Neumann (1920-1995), from 1943 to 1945
- Jaroslav Rybenský, from 1945 to 1947
- Jiří Novák (1924-2010), since 1947
- Lubomír Kostecký (born 1922)
- Jiří Neumann, from 1943 to 1945
- Václav Neumann, from 1945 to 1947
- Jaroslav Rybenský, from 1947 to 1956
- Milan Škampa (born 1928), since 1956
- Antonín Kohout (born 1919)
Origins and activities
The Smetana Quartet arose from the Quartet of the Czech Conservatory, which was founded in 1943 (during the Nazi occupation) in Prague by Antonín Kohout, the cellist. With Jaroslav Rybenský and Lubomír Kostecký as first and second violins, and Václav Neumann as violist, the group gave its first performance as the Smetana Quartet on 6 November 1945, at the Municipal Library in Prague. Neumann left to pursue conducting in 1947, at which point Rybenský went to the viola desk and Jiří Novák (who shared first violin desk with Josef Vlach, founder of the Vlach Quartet, under Vaclav Talich in the Czech Chamber Orchestra) came in as first violin.
By 1949 the group had official connections with the Czech Philharmonic. The first foreign tour was in 1949, to Poland, and the first recording was of a quartet by Bedřich Smetana in 1950. Rybenský was obliged to retire after ill health in 1952, and was replaced by Milan Škampa. The performers were appointed professors at the Academy of Musical Arts in 1967. Of their many recordings, those made at that time for German Electrola are considered particularly fine.
For many years this group, which has been called the finest Czech quartet of its time, played the Czech repertoire from memory, giving these works a special intensity and intimacy.
Notes and references
- Vladimír Šefl, Smetanovo Kvarteto (Supraphon, 1974)
- Jirǐ Berkovec, The Smetana Quartet (Orbis 1956)
- Some information, personnel, and a review of their recording of late Beethoven Quartets may be read in Jindrich Balek, 'The Smetana Quartet: Ludwig van Beethoven', Czech Music, October 2006, see .
- A DVD incorporating a 1-hour documentary about the Smetana Quartet by Jaromil Jires has been issued by Supraphon, in 2004, item SU 7004.
- Information in this section derived from article by Bruce Eder, Allmusic: see .
- R. Stowell, The Cambridge Companion to the String Quartet (C.U.P. 2003), p. 64-65: with photograph .
- Kocian Quartet webpage .
- Martinů Quartet webpage .