- String Quartet No. 1 in E flat minor ("French"), H. 117
- String Quartet No. 2, H. 150
- Tri jezdci (Three Horsemen), for string quartet, H. 1
Even before Bohuslav Martinu left his Czech homeland to study in Paris in 1923, the allure of French music must have seduced him. Just listen to the fascinating synthesis of Dvorák and Janácek with Debussy and Ravel in his String Quartet No. 1 from 1918, a mix of Bohemian folk flavor with impressionist harmony. This first volume in a set of the complete Martinu string quartets also includes a promising piece of juvenilia dating from his 12th year, the pictorial "Three Horsemen." But Martinu's mature and distinctly original voice starts to emerge with his Second Quartet (1925), a product of his Paris years. Mischievous and eccentric humor surrounds the dark brooding of the central slow movement, and Martinu has streamlined his thinking; this work is half as long as the First Quartet but more powerfully expressive. The members of the Martinu Quartet obviously have their namesake's music well under their skin, giving this survey an auspicious launch, and Naxos' budget price makes for an even more irresistible encounter with Martinu's beguiling world of sound.