This premiere recording by the Pavel Haas Quartet has quite a bit going for it. For starters, the programming is intelligent – something that's always appreciated. Here are two string quartets written by teacher (Janácek) and student (Haas); in fact, both works were given their premiere by the same ensemble (the Moravian Quartet). The liner notes do a nice job of pointing out these and other connections as well as describing the programmatic content of the two works. The ensemble is filled with youthful energy and passion, which is reflected in the music.
Second in popularity only to the Ninth Symphony "From the New World," Dvorák's Twelfth String Quartet – which was dubbed the "American" Quartet by the public and media rather than the composer himself – is a work nearly synonymous with the composer's tenure in the United States. These were not the only two works inspired by his cross-sea voyage, however. The Thirteenth String Quartet in G major, Op. 106, though not imbued with the same folkloric characteristics, also came about following the composer's return from the States. The popularity of the "American" Quartet has resulted in a work that is arguably overplayed, making it difficult for new ensembles to find anything new or unique to say about it.
Very little is known about Charpentier's life (1643-1704). The main source of information is an obscure rival composer named de Brossard. According to de Brossard, Charpentier was originally from Paris but studied music in Rome under the composer Carissimi. In 1696 he beat out de Brossard for the post of choirmaster at the Sainte Chapelle Cathedral in Paris, where he remained until his death in 1704. As Goebels writes in the album liner notes, there are several reasons for Charpentier's neglect as a composer.