Pavel Haas (1899–1944) was born in the Moravian capital Brno where he studied with Janácek, whose influence is clear in the String Quartet No 2. Like Janácek’s two quartets, Haas’s work, written in 1925, has a programmatic inspiration. Subtitled ‘From the Monkey Mountains’ (Czech: ‘Z opicích hor’), it was inspired by a summer trip into the Moravian highlands of that name. The first movement, Landscape
, is mellow and lyrical, perhaps depicting blowing breezes, swirling grasses and vegetation. The second movement is a scherzo-like piece entitled Coach, Coachman and Horse
. It suggests a rather rickety vehicle negotiating a very bumpy track with grinding chords, trills and glissandos, as if slipping in the mud. It ends with a good fast run, however. The third movement, The Moon and Me
, is a soft moment of night-time contemplation. One pictures the composer as a sort of transfixed Pierrot gazing at a summer moon. The finale, Wild Night
, has the air of a fiesta. Its opening is full of dramatic flourishes, fiery trills and then some good-time tunes, including a Latin American sounding rumba. Haas included an optional percussion part which emphasizes its links to the jazz bands he might have encountered in the 1920s.
from notes by Simon Broughton © 2013