Julius Weismann, String Quartet No.10 in A Minor, Op. 133

Julius Weismann Julius Weismann (1879–1950) was born in the German city of Freiburg. He studied at the Royal Bavarian Conservatory with Josef Rheinberger and Ludwig Thuille as well as with Heinrich von Herzogenberg in Berlin. He pursued a career as a composer, conductor and teacher. He composed in most genres but the string quartet was of particular interest to him and he composed quartets throughout his life. By the time he came to write String Quartet No.10 in 1940, he was already retired and living in the quiet German village of Uberlingen on the north shore of the Bodensee (Lake Constance) across from Switzerland far from the turmoil of Berlin, Munich and World War II. Weismann in the preface to the score, quotes a line from the book Alpine Memories by the French alpinist Emile Javelle (1847-1883):

It seemed as if the lovely clouds had a soul, a happy and good soul,
peaceful and soft as they floated across the blue sky above.

From the image these lines conjure up, one would be justified in thinking that the music might reflect this mood, however, this is not exactly the case. The opening movement, though marked In tempo tranquillo, ma con moto, is neither tranquil nor peaceful. Instead, there is a sense of restlessness and yearning created by the thematic material which hardly convey the idea of gazing lazily at clouds floating across the sky. The second movement, Larghetto, comes somewhat closer in mood, but really is more of a slow, pretty and stately dance. The third movement is a wild, hard-driving, pounding, energetic Scherzo, presto. The trio section, which sounds a bit like an undated ländle, provides a strong contrast. Once again, in the finale, Andante, un poco mosso, there is a sense of restlessness, created by the lower voices, while the upper voices present a melancholy but not sad theme. Tension is slowly built creating a sense of dread, of something cataclysmic to come. Lyric episodes provide contrast and release from this tension.

Unfortunately, this work has never been recorded as a string quartet. Our soundbites are from an arrangement for string orchestra in which the work loses some of its intimacy. However, they still provide a good idea of the quartet. If brought into the concert hall, this quartet is sure to make a strong impression. It presents no untoward technical challenges and as such can also be recommended to amateur players.

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