String quartet

From Bvio.com

A string quartet is a musical ensemble of four string musical instruments or a piece written to be performed by such a group.

Background

Although any combination of four string instruments can literally be called a "string quartet", in practice the term refers to a group consisting of two violins (the "first" and "second" violin), one viola and one cello. Should a composer create music for four other string instruments--for instance, three violins and bass, or violin, viola, cello and guitar--the instrumentation is indicated specifically. The standard string quartet is widely seen as one of the most important forms in chamber music, with most major composers, from the late 18th century onwards, writing string quartets.

A piece of music for four players of stringed instruments may be in any form, but if it is simply a String Quartet (with or without a subtitle) it is usually in four movements, with a large-scale structure similar to that of a symphony. The outer movements are typically fast, the inner movements in classical quartet form are a slow movement and a dance movement of some sort (e.g., minuet, scherzo, furiant), in either order.

Many other chamber groups can be seen as modifications of the string quartet, such as the piano quintet, which is a string quartet with an added piano; the string quintet, which is a string quartet with an extra viola or cello; the string trio, which is a string quartet with only one violin; and the piano quartet, a string quartet with one of the violins replaced by a piano.

History

The form first came to be used after the middle of the 18th century. Joseph Haydn's first works for string quartet have five movements and resemble the divertimento (a title which they carried in some editions) or serenade, but the opus 9 quartets of 1769-70 are in the form which was to become standard both for Haydn and for other composers: four movements, a fast movement, a slow movement, a minuet and trio and a fast finale. Because his example helped codify a form that originated in the Baroque suite, Haydn is often referred to as "the father of the string quartet." Haydn occasionally played his quartets on social occasions in an impromptu quartet ensemble of which Mozart was also a member.

Ever since Haydn's day, the string quartet has been prestigious, considered a true test of the classical composer's art. This may result from the fact that the palette of sound is more restricted than with orchestral music, forcing the music to stand more on its own rather than relying on tonal color; or from the inherently contrapuntal tendency in music written for four equal instruments.

Quartet composition flourished in the Classical era, with both Mozart and Beethoven writing famous series of quartets to set alongside Haydn's. A slackening (but only slight) in the pace of quartet composition occurred in the 19th century; here, a curious phenenomenon was seen in the composers who wrote only one quartet, perhaps to show that they could fully command this hallowed genre. With the onset of the Modern era of classical music, the quartet returned to full popularity among composers, as the extensive listings below document.

List of string quartet composers

Born before 1800

  • Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) - wrote sixty-eight string quartets (some of which he called Divertimenti), the last incomplete, plus Die Sieben letzten Worte unseres Erl�sers am Kreuze (The Seven Last Words of Christ on the Cross), a sequence of eight slow movement plus a brief, rapid, finale (originally written for orchestra, but probably better known in its version for string quartet)
  • Luigi Boccherini (1743-1805) - A prolific composer in most chamber music genres, Boccherini wrote ninety-one (!) string quartets - but see his string quintets !
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) - wrote twenty-three string quartets, including the six so-called Haydn quartets (1782-85), generally reckoned to be his best
  • Luigi Cherubini (1760 - 1842) - wrote six string quartets (1814-1837)
  • Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) - wrote sixteen quartets widely regarded as among the finest quartets by any composer
  • Johann Nepomuk Hummel (1778-1837) - wrote three string quartets, Op.30
  • Franz Schubert (1797-1828) - traditionally reckoned to have written fifteen string quartets. The Death and the Maiden and Rosamunde quartets are particularly well known

Born 1801-1850

  • Mikhail Glinka (1804-1857) - After attempting to compose a quartet in 1824 (a work that remained incomplete), Glinka wrote his only finished string quartet in 1830. While this piece is now seldom performed, it and its incomplete predecessor are notable as among the first attempts by a native Russian composer to work in this genre.
    • String Quartet in F major (1830)
  • Juan Crisostomo Arriaga (1806-1826) wrote three brilliant quartets before his abrupt death at age 19. Early 19th century Spanish composer.
  • Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847) - wrote six numbered string quartets: Op. 12 (1829), Op. 13 (1827), Op. 44 (three quartets, 1838), and Op. 80 (1847); an early unnumbered string quartet in E-flat major (1823); Four Pieces ("Andante", "Scherzo", "Capriccio", "Fugue") for string quartet, Op. 81 (1847); a set of 15 fugues for string quartet, written when Mendelssohn was twelve (!); and another fugue (in E-flat major) for string quartet, written at age eighteen. Mendelssohn's early quartet music shows a remarkable mastery of (and dependence upon) the formal procedures of Beethoven's late quartets, but with a highly original transformation of their expressive significance.
  • Robert Schumann (1810-1856) - wrote three string quartets (opus number 41), not among his better known works
  • Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901) - wrote a single string quartet (1873)
  • César Franck (1822-1890) - wrote one string quartet (1889)
  • Anton Bruckner (1824-1896) - wrote one string quartet (1862)
  • Bedrich Smetana (1824-1884) - wrote two string quartets, with the first, From My Life, the better known
  • Karl Goldmark (1830-1915) - Goldmark's only string quartet was his "breakthrough" work, his first composition to receive very positive reviews in contemporary Viennese musical journals. Long neglected, it was recorded several times in the 1990's as part of a general revival of interest in Goldmark's chamber music.
    • String Quartet in B-flat major, Op. 8 (1860)
  • Alexander Borodin (1833-1887) - wrote two string quartets (1879 and 1881)
  • Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) - wrote three string quartets, the first two in 1879 and the final one in 1881
  • [[Camille Saint-Sa�ns]] (1835-1921) - wrote two string quartets (1889 and 1918)
  • Pyotr Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) - wrote three string quartets (in 1871, 1873 and 1876), of which the first is the best-known
  • Antonin Dvorak (1841-1904) - wrote fourteen string quartets, with number twelve, the American, the best known
  • Edvard Grieg (1843-1907) - wrote two string quartets, the second being unfinished
  • Gabriel Faure (1845-1924) - wrote one string quartet (1924)

Born 1851-1900

  • Vincent D'Indy (1851-1931) - wrote three string quartets
  • Leoš Jan�ček (1854-1928) - wrote two string quartets, known as The Kreutzer Sonata and Intimate Letters
  • Ernest Chausson (1855-1899) - wrote one string quartet in three movements; the third movement was completed by Vincent D'Indy after Chausson's death in 1899
  • Edward Elgar (1857-1934) - wrote one string quartet (1918)
  • Hugo Wolf (1860-1903) - wrote one string quartet (1884) and a more famous Italian Serenade for string quartet (1892)
  • Claude Debussy (1862-1918) - wrote just one string quartet in 1893
  • Frederick Delius (1862-1934) - wrote three string quartets (1888, 1893 and 1916)
  • Richard Strauss (1864-1949) - wrote one string quartet
  • Alexander Glazunov (1865-1936) - wrote seven string quartets, and numerous other compositions for string quartet (the Five Pieces of 1879-1881, the Five Novelettes Op.15, the Finale of the B-la-F Quartet and the first movement "Carol-singers" of the Name-day Quartet, the Suite Op.35, the Two Pieces of 1902, and the "Elegy for Belayev" Op.105). The Third Quartet (1888) is often nicknamed the "Slav Quartet", while the Seventh Quartet (1930) is subtitled "Hommage to the Past".
  • Carl Nielsen (1865-1931) - wrote four string quartets
  • Jean Sibelius (1865-1957) - wrote three youthful quartets (1885, 1889 and 1890) and his much better known quartet "Voces Intimae" (1909)
  • Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) - wrote two string quartets (1921 and 1944)
  • Max Reger (1873-1916) - wrote six string quartets
  • Josef Suk (composer) (1874-1935) - two string quartets - in B-flat, op. 11 from 1896, and op. 31 in one movement from 1911, tonal but from g -> D-flat. Also the Meditation on the Old Czech Chorale "St. Wenceslas", op. 35a, 1914.
  • Franz Schmidt (1874-1939) - quartet 1 in A, quartet 2 in G
  • Charles Ives (1874-1954) - wrote two string quartets (1896 and 1913), the first entitled "From the Salvation Army"
  • Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951) - wrote four numbered string quartets, the second of which includes a part for soprano. Also composed an early, unnumbered, string quartet
  • Franco Alfano (1875 - 1954) - wrote three string quartets
  • Fritz Kreisler (1875-1962) - wrote a string quartet in A minor (1919)
  • Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) - wrote one string quartet (1903)
  • Ernst von Dohnanyi (1877-1960) - wrote three string quartets (1899, 1906, 1926)
  • Ernest Bloch (1880-1959) - wrote five string quartets
  • [[B�la Bart�k]] (1881-1945) - wrote six string quartets widely regarded as being the finest quartets of the first half of the 20th century
  • Nikolai Myaskovsky (1881-1950) - wrote thirteen (1907 - 1949)
  • [[Zolt�n Kod�ly]] (1882-1967) - wrote two string quartets (1908 and 1917)
  • Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971) - Three Pieces for String Quartet (1914); Double Canon for String Quartet (1959)
  • Arnold Bax (1883-1953) - wrote three string quartets
  • Anton Webern (1883-1945) - his String Quartet is composed using the twelve tone technique. Also a string quartet, slow movement and rondo from 1905.
  • Alban Berg (1885-1935)
    • String Quartet, Op. 3 (1910)
    • Lyric Suite (serial,1926) for string quartet, a work which influenced Bart�k and many others
  • Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887-1959) - wrote seventeen string quartets between 1915 and 1957
  • Ernst Toch (1887-1964) - 14 string quartets, the first five now lost
  • Kurt Atterberg (1887-1974) - three string quartets, only one, no. 2 in b minor, recorded
  • Bohuslav Martinu (1890-1959) - wrote seven string quartets
  • Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) - wrote two string quartets (1930 and 1941)
  • Arthur Honegger (1892-1955) - wrote three string quartets, in C minor (1917), D major (1936), and E major (1937)
  • Darius Milhaud (1892-1974) - wrote eighteen, the fourteenth and fifteenth of which may be played as an octet
  • Walter Piston (1894-1976) - wrote five string quartets (from 1933 to 1962)
  • Paul Hindemith (1895-1963) - a violist, wrote seven string quartets
  • Dane Rudhyar (1895-1985) - Crisis and Overcoming (1978), Advent (1976)
  • Roger Sessions (1896-1985) - two string quartets (1938, 1951,) Canons to the memory of Stravinsky (1971)
  • Virgil Thomson (1896-1989) - wrote two string quartets (1931 and 1932)
  • Henry Cowell (1897-1965) - wrote four
  • Ernst Krenek (1900-1991) - wrote eight

Born 1901-1950

  • Ruth Crawford-Seeger (1901-1953) - String Quartet (1931)
  • William Walton (1902-1983) - wrote two string quartets (1922 and 1947)
  • Stefan Wolpe (1902-1972) - String Quartet (1968-1969)
  • Giacinto Scelsi (1905-1988) - wrote five (1944, 1961, 1963, 1964, 1984)
  • Michael Tippett (1905-1998) - wrote five numbered string quartets plus two unnumbered youthful works
  • Elisabeth Lutyens (1906-1984) - wrote 13
  • Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975) - wrote fifteen string quartets, often seen as being as significant, but more "private", works than his fifteen symphonies
  • Elizabeth Maconchy (1907-1994) - thirteen quartets
  • Elliott Carter (1908- ) - wrote five string quartets in the second half of the 20th century
  • Grazyna Bacewicz (1909-1969) - seven string quartets, the first two only recently published and recorded (the others from 1947 to 1965)
  • Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996) - twenty mature string quartets from 1949 to 1985 (several discarded early works, one last Quartetto sereno completed by Per Norgard)
  • Samuel Barber (1910-1981) - wrote the String Quartet No. 1 in B major, Op. 11 (1936), from which the Adagio for Strings was reorchestrated; the String Quartet No.2, Op. 27 (1948); Serenade for string quartet, Op.1 (1929), arranged for string orchestra in 1944; Dover Beach, for baritone (or mezzo-soprano) & string quartet, Op. 3; and a single quartet movement (1949) for a quartet whose other movements were never written
  • John Cage (1912-1992) - wrote one string quartet (1950), Thirty Pieces for String Quartet (1983), Music for Four for String Quartet (1987-1988), Four for String Quartet (1989)
  • Conlon Nancarrow (1912-1997) - wrote three string quartets (1945, ca. 1948, 1987), second incomplete
  • Benjamin Britten (1913-1976) - wrote three numbered string quartets (1941, 1945 and 1975) plus two early unnumbered ones (1928 and 1931) and a number of other works for string quartet (such as the three Divertimenti, 1933)
  • Witold Lutoslawski (1913-1994) - wrote one string quartet (1964)
  • David Diamond (composer) (1915- )- wrote ten string quartets, from 1940 to 1974
  • George Perle (1915- ) - wrote seven, of which five withdrawn
  • Milton Babbitt (1916- ) wrote five abstract, densely serialistic quartets in the mid-20th century
  • Alberto Ginastera (1916-1983) - four string quartets, 1948 to 1974, the last with baritone to a text from Beethoven's Heiligenstadt Testament
  • George Rochberg (1918- ) wrote seven, one of which includes variations on Pachelbel's Canon
  • Peter Racine Fricker (1920-1990) - wrote three string quartets (1947 to 1975)
  • Iannis Xenakis (1922-2001) - wrote four works for string quartet: "st/4 - 1,080262" (1955-1962) which was written with the help of an IBM 7090 computer using stochastic algorithms, Tetras (1983), a work in nine sections, Tetora (1990), which means "four" in Dorian, Ergma (1994).
  • [[Gy�rgy Ligeti]] (1923- ) - String Quartet No. 1 ("M�tamorphoses nocturnes") (1953-1954) and String Quartet No. 2 (1968)
  • Peter Mennin (1923-1983) - wrote two string quartets (1941 and 1951)
  • Mel Powell (1923-1998) - String Quartet (1982)
  • Lejaren Hiller (1924-1994) - wrote seven
  • Luciano Berio (1925-2003) - wrote three, plus other pieces for string quartet
  • Morton Feldman (1926-1987) - wrote two string quartets in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the second being over six hours long
  • Hans Werner Henze (1926- ) - wrote five
  • Thea Musgrave (1928- ) - wrote one string quartet (1958)
  • Ezra Sims (1928- ) - String Quartet No. 2 (1962) (really a quintet), Third Quartet (1962)
  • Karlheinz Stockhausen (1928- ) - Helikopter String Quartet (from "Mittwoch" from "LICHT"), for 4 helicopters & string quartet
  • George Crumb (1929- ) - String Quartet, and Black Angels (Images I), for electric string quartet
  • Sofia Gubaidulina (1931- ) - wrote four string quartets (1971, 1987, 1987, 1994), the last with tape
  • Peter Sculthorpe (1929- ) - many quartets
  • Mauricio Kagel (1931- ) - wrote three
  • [[Henryk G�recki]] (1933- ) - String Quartet No. 1 ("Already It Is Dusk"), Op. 62, String Quartet No. 2 ("Quasi una Fantasia"), Op. 64
  • Krzysztof Penderecki (1933- ) - wrote two string quartets (1960, 1968)
  • Roger Reynolds (1934- ) - Tetra, Coconino . . . A Shattered Landscape
  • Alfred Schnittke (1934-1998) - wrote four string quartets and a Canon in Memoriam Igor Stravinsky and Variations for string quartet
  • Arvo Part (1935- ) - Psalom, Summa, and arranged Fratres for string quartet
  • Terry Riley (1935- ) - String Quartet (1960), returned to pre-composed notated music at the request of the Kronos Quartet, Cadenza on the Night Plain, Mythic Birds Waltz, Salome Dances for Peace
  • Steve Reich (1936- ) - Different Trains, for string quartet & tape; and one Triple Quartet (1999), which may be performed by one quartet (with tape), three, or a 34 piece orchestra
  • Philip Glass (1937- ) - wrote five string quartets
  • Gloria Coates (1938- ) - had written eight string quartets up to 2002
  • Alvin Curran (1938- ) - VSTO (1993)
  • John Harbison (1938- ) - wrote three
  • Charles Wuorinen (1938- ) - wrote three
  • Louis Andriessen (1939- ) - wrote two
  • Jonathan Harvey (1939- ) - wrote two
  • Ingram Marshall (1942- ) - Entrada (At the River) for string quartet amplified with processing, Evensongs, Voces Resonae (1984), and Fog Tropes II
  • Brian Ferneyhough (1943- ) - String Quartets Nos. 1-4.
  • Paul Lansky (1944- ) - String Quartet No. 1 (1967), String Quartet No. 2 (1971-1978), Ricercare (2000)
  • Peteris Vasks (1946- ) - wrote four string quartets
  • Kevin Volans (1949- ) - wrote six string quartets

Born 1951-

  • Lois V. Vierk (1951- ) - Into the brightening air (1994/1999), dedicated to Mel Powell) and River Beneath the River (1993)
  • John Zorn (1953- ) - The Dead Man (1990), Cat o' Nine Tails (Tex Avery Directs the Marquis de Sade) (1988), Forbidden Fruit for voice, string quartet & turntables (1987)
  • Bob Ostertag (1957- ) - All the Rage (1992)
  • Julia Wolfe (1958- ) - released an album of string quartets, The String Quartets: Dip Deep, Four Marys, and Early that summer (1991)

String quartets (ensembles)

For the purposes of performance, groups of string players sometimes group together to make ad hoc string quartets. Other groups continue playing together for many years, sometimes changing their members but retaining their name. Well known string quartets include:

External links

da:Strygekvartet de:Streichquartett nl:Strijkkwartet ja:弦楽四重奏