Formed at the Prague Conservatory in 1964, the Talich Quartet takes its name from the important conductor and founder of the Czech Philharmonic, Václav Talich (1883-1961), from whom the current first violinist is descended. Internationally recognized as one of Europe's finest quartets, the Talich performs regularly in major cities throughout the world and has made numerous recordings.
Works of Czech composers, such as Bedrich Smetana, Antonín Dvorák, Bohuslav Martinu, and Leos Janacek, form the core of the Talich Quartet's repertoire, both in performance and on recordings. However, their extensive and varied discography also includes the complete string quartets of Mozart, Beethoven, and Bartók, which have won numerous awards including a "Golden Disc" from Czech label Supraphon and several "Grand Prix du Disque" awards as well as the French Académie du Disque Lyrique's "Diapason d'Or." Their recording history has become long and distinguished enough to merit re-releases, and in 2000 Harmonia Mundi announced the Talich Quartet's newly repackaged Beethoven cycle on Calliope, featuring the longtime configuration of Petr Messiereur, Jan Kvapil, Jan Talich, Sr. and Evzen Rattay.
After the ensemble made their 30th recording for Calliope in 1998 (Dvorák's String Quartets in G major, Op. 106, and in A flat major, Op. 105), Vladimir Bukac moved from second violin to viola (replacing founding member Jan Talich, Sr.) and Petr Macecek took over the second violin spot. Jan Talich, Jr., replaced Peter Messiereur on the first violin and Petr Prause took Evzen Rattay's place at the cello. By 2000, their membership was as follows: Jan Talich, Jr., first violin; Petr Macecek, second violin; Vladimir Bukac, viola; and Petr Prause, cello. Roman Patocka took over the second violin position in 2011.
Performances by the Talich are always of a high caliber and statements such as this -- from a Boston Globe reviewer -- are typical of critics' responses: "[The Talich quartet are] so serenely good that, as a listener, one has no choice but to put oneself in their hands." Comments generally point out the quartet's subtlety, elegance, and intensity in their interpretations of a wide range of styles. Annual touring schedules include Europe, Japan, and North America, and they have also toured the Middle East, Australia, and Indonesia.
The Talich Quartet made its North American debut in 1987 and received overwhelmingly positive reviews. A Vancouver critic declared, "If it isn't already a national treasure, the Talich Quartet should be.... What we had, simply, was perfection." The ensemble appears annually at the Dvorák String Quartet Festival in Prague, and in 1999 participated in the Casals Festival, the Prague Spring Music Festival and the Europalia Festival. It continues to appear at many festivals and to keep up a recording schedule that has included new versions of the quartets of Smetana (2004), Janácek (2006), and Debussy and Ravel (2012).