Maybe two of the most beautiful string quartets of the late romantic era. Especially Dvořák’s American quartet is a work of stunning beauty. He composed it in 1893 during a vacation in Spillville, Iowa. The same place saw the birth of his most famous 9th symphony.
Spillville in 1893 had a small Czech community, where Dvořák felt at home right away. He came there through his secretary, who’s father was teaching there. The resulting string quartet was the first where he found a balance between his overflowing melodic creativity and a stricter, classical structure.
Smetana’s work is, as the subtitle suggests, highly autobiographical. It deals with his issues with being raised in Austria-Hungary, but being from Czech descent. He wrote it in 1876, when he was already completely deaf. Beethoven was not the only deaf composer. The E that the piece is written in is meant to mimic the beep sound he was constantly hearing.