For the first of their pair of 25th Anniversary concerts at the Wigmore Hall, the Wihan Quartet chose a programme of three quartets from their native Czech, from Martinů, Dvořák and Smetana. You might have expected four musicians from Czech to have an affinity for this work, and you would not have been disappointed.

I need to give a disclaimer here: the Wihan quartet are good friends, and I’m no expert on chamber music. But I did talk to several people in the audience who are less biased and more expert, and their opinion was unanimous: this was a concert of quite exceptionally high quality, and the Wihan are matchless in performing this repertoire.

The first thing to say is that technically, the performance was impeccable. The Wihan’s control over intonation, phrasing, dynamics and the balance between the musicians is absolute. The dynamic control was particularly impressive in the last movement of the Smetana, in which maintain a perfectly smooth volume level while making transitions between radically different bowing styles or pizzicato.

I loved listening to each of these three works. The Martinů is mercurial: you never know quite what the composer is going to do next and each step holds fun and interest. The Dvořák is bewitching, full of an intricate tracery of lovely melodies and free of the restraint in more Germanic composers (the Wihan also treated us to the rousing finale of Dvořák’s American quartet as an encore). But the work that engaged me most was Smetana's E minor quartet "From my life", his first quartet, written when he was 52 years old and deaf. Smetana aimed to encapsulate his whole life history in just half an hour of music: a tall ambition, and one that I think he achieved with mastery. I had to listen to the Wihan's 2006 recording of the quartet to remind myself of how cleverly it's all achieved.

What makes this quartet exceptional is the pace at which the listener is taken through the series of different emotions. The first movement starts with an imposing E minor chord (treble stops from everyone), moves to an ostinato with a very characteristic tense three note motif, then a set of lushly romantic themes, with the tense motif always present in the background, then a complex fugal passage based on it. Finally the ostinato returns as the music dies away, gently, to a few simple pizzicato chords (foreshadowing the way the work will end). The switches happen at break-neck pace: a psychiatrist, listening to this quartet, would probably diagnose "given to violent mood swings".

The second movement, representing the composer's carefree youth, is more uniformly fun, with a succession of dance movements (the movement is labelled "alla Polka") including a lovely section in which the quartet played ever so slightly out of tune to get a marvellous fairground-like effect. The music is still constantly shifting, from flowing to gentle to a harder-edged, driving section. The violent mood swings return in the intensely longing slow third movement: starting with a glorious cello melody which is joined by the other players, the highly romantic passages, reminiscent of the Bruch concerto, give way to something far more muscular. But the mood never stays the same for long: an "I will prevail" passage is followed swiftly by an "or will I?" and quiet resignation at the end.

The fourth movement is dramatic, with a joyful vivace introduction interrupted by a "disaster looming" motif and a deep cello note followed by an almost inaudible top E on the first violin, representing the sudden tragedy of the composer's deafness. The music then moves to authoritative but quiet, dying away to its gentle pizzicato ending.