Although Suk was a professional string quartet player (he played 2nd violin in the Czech Quartet from 1892 to 1933), he wrote very little chamber music. This String Quartet from 1896 is one of the more successful chamber works of his youth, displaying the freshness and vibrancy characteristic of this period. The last movement was revised in 1915 but published as a separate work, so all four movements of the Quartet date from 1896. After this piece, Suk wrote only one more String Quartet in 1911.
Unlike Janacek, his contemporary and countryman, Suk did not use folk music to a great extent, yet his personal style was already forming in the late 1890s. The Adagio, in particular, reveals traces of this individualism. Listen out also for the mock pomposity of the Intermezzo and the light-hearted Allegro giocoso with its harmonic twists and busy textures.
Born in Krecovice, Suk was initially trained by his father, a chorus master. Later he took instruction at the Prague Conservatoire, and after that received lessons from Dvorak, marrying his daughter in 1898. His principal non-compositional musical endeavour was as second violinist in the prestigious Bohemian String Quartet, which took him from 1892 until 1933, only two years before his death. He wrote two pieces for the medium, his style, like that of Dvorak, drawing on folk style and Romantic lyricism.