Archive for March, 2006

Mozart, String Quartet in d minor, K. 421

Sunday, March 19th, 2006

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, 1756-1791

String Quartet in d minor, K. 421, 2nd of the “Haydn” Quartets, 1783

In the summer of 1783, Mozart completed his second string quartet in the series of six that he ultimately dedicated to Haydn. They were Mozart’s greatest in the genre, arguably the greatest quartets by any composer up to that time. The set is noteworthy for its breadth and diversity of technical means and expressive effects. Each quartet is unique and distinct in form and character. The second Quartet, K. 421 in d minor, owes its individuality to its tonality: it is the only one in a minor key. Composers of the era typically published a set of quartets as a single opus, commonly featuring at least one in a minor key. (more…)

Beethoven,String Quartet in f minor, “Serioso”

Sunday, March 19th, 2006

Ludwig van Beethoven, 1770-1827

String Quartet in f minor, Op. 95, “Serioso”, 1810

Beethoven’s String Quartet in f minor, Op. 95 is classified as a work of his “middle” period. Unlike the towering, integrated set of three Rasumovsky quartets of the same middle period, Op. 95 stands alone, singular, even isolated. It is the last of the middle quartets, sitting on the brink, as it were, of Beethoven’s “late” period where the final quartets dwell in a rarefied world of their own. Still, like all broad classifications, this is an oversimplification. Particularly in the second movement and third movements, the quartet contains many passages with the sublime qualities of the late quartets featuring transitions (more…)

Stravinsky, Three Pieces for String Quartet

Sunday, March 19th, 2006

Igor Stravinsky, 1882-1971

Three Pieces for String Quartet, 1914

Igor StravinskyIgor Stravinsky is regarded by most as the single most important composer of the 20th century. Turning eighteen in 1900, Stravinsky lived for nearly ninety years until 1971, far outliving the other crucial giants of the era including Debussy, Schoenberg, Bartók and Ives. Successively a citizen of three countries – Russia, France and the United States – Stravinsky would cover a similarly vast terrain of musical style spanning a commonly held classification into three periods: Russian, Neo-Classical (of which he is considered the founder) and Serialism. It is conspicuous, if not characteristic of the age, that Stravinsky wrote little for the string quartet. What he did produce was as novel and revolutionary as his music in other genres, (more…)

Shostakovich, String quartet No. 7, Op. 108

Thursday, March 16th, 2006

Dmitri Shostakovich, 1906-1975

String quartet No. 7 in f-sharp minor, Op. 108, 1960

Dmitri ShostakovichPrior to Shostakovich, Russian composers demonstrated only an occasional interest in the string quartet. Highlights consist of a handful of works from Tchaikovsky, Borodin and Prokofiev combined. As Russian classical music rose in the late 19th century, often with an agenda of creating a distinctly Russian national voice, the string quartet was typically eschewed as a characteristic relic of Western, Germanic Europe. Even Stravinsky found precious little use for the ensemble to express his musical revolutions. This all changed with Shostakovich. (more…)