Nikolai Myaskovsky, String Quartet No. 1 in a minor, Op. 33, No. 1

Nikolai Myaskovsky Although this Quartet carries the moniker of No.1, it is not Myaskovsky's first string quartet. Nos.3, 4 and 10 were all composed before No.1, roughly between 1907 and 1911. No.1, which is in actuality his fourth quartet, dates from 1929. Tonally speaking, this quartet and No.2 are the most modern-sounding and in some ways the most astringent. The main theme to the opening movement, Poco rubato ed agitato, is highly chromatic and enigmatic. It is followed by a kind of lullaby subject expressed in the pentatonic scale. The second movement, Allegro tenebroso, is a kind of modern scherzo combining a whirling motif with a mechanical like quality produced by its rhythm. The following Andante sostenuto is quite daring in that it clearly shows the influence of jazz and the blues--hardly extraordinary for the times in the West, but in the Soviet Union, jazz and the blues were anathema. Shostakovich, during this period, was forced to publicly apologize for producing an arrangement of Tea for Two. The finale, Assai allegro, features a lopsided rhythmic, thrusting dance which moves forward by lurches.

Despite the fact that Nikolai Myaskovsky (1881-1950) wrote some 27 symphonies and 13 string quartets, he and his music are barely known. This is virtually impossible to explain, especially when you play or listen to his innovative, original and appealing music. We feel his quartets deserve to be ranked alongside those of Shostakovich and Prokofiev and hope professionals and amateurs alike will take the opportunity to get to know them. Myaskovsky was born in Congress (i.e. Russian) Poland near Warsaw, where his father, a military engineer was then serving. He took piano and violin lessons as a boy but followed in his father's footsteps, entering the military academy and graduating as an engineer. When he was posted to Moscow, he studied composition with Reinhold Glière. Upon transfer to St. Petersburg, he finally decided to become a composer and entered the St. Petersburg Conservatory where he studied with Rimsky-Korsakov and Liadov. It was there he met Prokofiev with whom he became close friends. He served in WWI and was severely wounded on the Austrian front. After the war, he taught for most of his life at the Moscow Conservatory. Among his many students were Kabalevsky, Khatchaturian, Shebalin and Shchedrin.

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János Spech, String Quartet in g minor, Op. 2, No. 1

“There has, as of late, been a spate of string quartet CDs of unknown or long-forgotten composers from the 18th century. Many of these releases only serve to confirm why these works have been deservedly forgotten. This is not the case with Johannes Spech’s three Op.2 string quartets. The Hungarians claim him now and style him Janos. However, he was more or less your typical ethnic German-Austrian, born in Pressburg then part of the Habsburg Empire, now Bratislava in the Slovak Republic. He studied composition in Vienna with Haydn and then spent most of his time in Buda and Pest, then German enclaves in Austrian Hungary. There he sought out patrons from the Hungarian nobility as had Haydn. The Op.2 quartets are dedicated to M le Comte François de Koháry. (Ferenc [Franz] Graf von Koháry) They were published in 1803. What a surprise to find, despite the low opus number, very finished and mature works which are the equal of Haydn’s Opp.71 and 74 quartets, if not those of Op.76. All three works are in 4 movements, and follow an Allegro, Andante, Menuetto, Allegro molto pattern. His use of all of the voices in the presentation of thematic material is exceptional for the time and superior to that of Haydn. The melodies are fresh and tuneful, never threadbare. These works are a real find.”

The Chamber Music Journal

The Op.2 String Quartets, a set of three, were composed sometime between 1799 and 1803. One can clearly hear the influence of Spech’s teacher Haydn. The opening movement, Allegro, of the Quartet in g minor clearly has its roots in the Sturm and Drang era. A unisono opening begins the work. There is some very attractive use of chromaticism. Spech’s treatment of the cello is quite exceptional in that after the first violin, it is perhaps the most prominent voice. The beautiful second movement, Un poco Andante, recalls the slow movements of Haydn. The Menuetto, un poco allegro, with its pleading main main theme is particularly attractive. The charming trio section is clearly an Austrian Lāndler shared by the first violin and the cello. The exciting finale is a match for those of Haydn.

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Gaetano Donizetti, String Quartet No. 10 in g minor

Gaetano Donizetti Gaetano Donizetti's String Quartet No.10 in g minor dates from 1821 during a period his biographers refer to as his “Quartet Years”. He had left the conservatory in Bologna and was starting to earn a living as best he could. Frequently, he was asked to join amateur quartet groups and to bring something of his. Quartet No.10 only has three movements, Allegro presto, Larghetto cantabile and Menuetto, allegro. Because most of his quartets have four movements and none end with a minuet, most scholars have considered the work to be incomplete, however, this is by no means a certainty as it can be argued that there certainly was a strong Italian tradition, as regularly practiced by Boccherini and others, of ending a work with a minuet, which in this case is lively and has a statisfying conclusion.

Gaetano Donizetti (1797-1848) was born in Bergamo, Italy of humble origins. His father was an assistant at the village pawnshop. In 1806, at the age of 9, he was able to attend a charitable school and there met the then famous composer, Simone Mayr, who became his mentor and lifelong friend. Donizetti is well-known, of course, as a composer for the opera. However, many will be surprised to learn that he did write a fair amount of chamber music, including 18 string quartets, some string quintets, piano trios, and an octet for winds and strings along with several other instrumental works.

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Alexander Glazunov, String Quartet No. 4 in a minor, Op. 64, G 103

Alexander Glazunov "String Quartet No.4 in a minor, Op.64 was composed in 1894 and published around 1899. It was dedicated to his friend, the prominent music critic Vladimir Stasov. The opening movement, Andante-Allegro, begins with a series of very sad chords, which are made more dramatic by a surprise accent and downward chromatic passages. The main theme is both powerful and passionate, while the second theme more lyrical. The slow movement, an Andante, is a fine example of Glazunov’s mature style. Though it starts with an aura of blissful peace, as the movement progresses there are waves of surging energy followed by releases which softly die away. Frequent changes of tempo and dynamics also create a sense of unease. Next is a brilliant and exciting Scherzo vivace, very Russian in flavor, it is a kind of perpetuum mobile. The short trio section has a lovely melody, also quite Russian, given to the cello. Played by itself, this movement would make a tremendous encore. It really is perfect in every way. The finale, an Allegro, begins with a series of desolate chords, which though not an exact quote, are very similar to those of the opening of the first movement. The gloomy mood quickly gives way to a series of flowing and bright melodies, some energetic and dance-like, others lyrical and poetic."

The Chamber Music Journal

Alexander Glazunov (1865-1936) was born in St. Petersburg, the son of a wealthy book publisher. He began studying piano at the age of nine and started composing not long after. In 1879, he began studies with Rimsky-Korsakov. Glazunov’s progress was so fast that within two years, Korsakov considered Glazunov more of a junior colleague than a student. Between 1895 and 1914, Glazunov was widely regarded, both inside and out, as Russia’s greatest living composer. His works include symphonies, ballets, operas and seven string quartets in addition to various instrumental sonatas.

This is a major work which belongs in the concert repertoire as well as on the stands of amateurs.

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Ernő Dohnányi, String Quartet No. 3 in a minor, Op. 33

Ernö Dohnányi Ernst von Dohnanyi (1877-1960) (Ernö Dohnányi in Hungarian) is generally regarded, after Liszt, as Hungary’s most versatile musician. He was active as a concert pianist, composer, conductor and teacher and must be considered one of the chief influences on Hungary’s musical life in the 20th century. Certainly, his chamber music is very fine, with most of it being in the masterwork category. Yet, sadly and inexplicably, it has virtually disappeared from the concert stage. Dohnanyi studied piano and composition in his native Pressburg (Bratislava) before entering the Budapest Academy. His first published work, his Piano Quintet No.1, was championed by no less an authority than Johannes Brahms. Upon graduating in the spring of 1897, Dohnanyi embarked on a dazzling career as a concert artist, often playing in chamber ensembles. Later, he also devoted considerable time to teaching and conducting.

By the time Dohnanyi composed String Quartet. No.3 in a, Op.33 in 1926, he was well into middle age and the landscape of European music had changed radically from that which had existed before World War I. He employs a different tonal language than that in his earlier works. The big first movement, Allegro agitato e appassionato, begins with a short, traditionally tonal introduction before the main theme is given in full. It is edgy and anxious, and characterized by a sense of nervous energy. There is no development and the second theme, which is slower and more lyrical, is introduced in a distant key. The theme upon which the variations to the second movement, Andante religioso con variazioni, is based is a chorale. The theme is solemn though not funereal. The first variation is quiet and reflective, while the second is a whirlwind of engery. The last variation is a powerful restatement of the theme. The exciting finale, Vivace giocoso, though it does have a certain edginess is also light and upbeat. The main theme is based on a rising chromatic motif.

This is a very fine quartet and an important work of the period from which it comes. Either hard to obtain or out of print, we have reprinted the original edition by Rózsavölgyi. Both professionals and amateurs seeking a first class post from between the World Wars should find this quartet fills the bill.

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Ernő Dohnányi, String Quartet No. 1 in A major, Op. 7

Ernö Dohnányi Ernst von Dohnanyi (1877-1960) (Ernö Dohnányi in Hungarian) is generally regarded, after Liszt, as Hungary’s most versatile musician. He was active as a concert pianist, composer, conductor and teacher and must be considered one of the chief influences on Hungary’s musical life in the 20th century. Certainly, his chamber music is very fine, with most of it being in the masterwork category. Yet, sadly and inexplicably, it has virtually disappeared from the concert stage. Dohnanyi studied piano and composition in his native Pressburg (Bratislava) before entering the Budapest Academy. His first published work, his Piano Quintet No.1, was championed by no less an authority than Johannes Brahms. Upon graduating in the spring of 1897, Dohnanyi embarked on a dazzling career as a concert artist, often playing in chamber ensembles. Later, he also devoted considerable time to teaching and conducting.

Dohnanyi’s String Quartet No.1 in A Major, Op.7 was composed in 1899 and published in 1903. The opening movement, Allegro begins with a spacious and leisurely theme. A second theme is used to create a short scherzo-interludes. The second movement, Allegro grazioso, is an intermezzo consists of a theme and set of five variations. The third movement, Molto adagio con espressione, opens with a noble theme whose development becomes rhythmically quite intricate. The striking finale, Vivace, is the most striking begins with a snakey melody, probably of Hungarian origin. A second theme, in which the lower three voices play double-stops creating a bagpipe-like effect, whilst the melody in the first violin recalls, the sound of oriental or Turkish music.

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Ernő Dohnányi, String Quartet No. 2 in D-flat major, Op. 15

Ernö Dohnányi Ernst von Dohnanyi (1877-1960) (Ernö Dohnányi in Hungarian) is generally regarded, after Liszt, as Hungary’s most versatile musician. He was active as a concert pianist, composer, conductor and teacher and must be considered one of the chief influences on Hungary’s musical life in the 20th century. Certainly, his chamber music is very fine, with most of it being in the masterwork category. Yet, sadly and inexplicably, it has virtually disappeared from the concert stage. Dohnanyi studied piano and composition in his native Pressburg (Bratislava) before entering the Budapest Academy. His first published work, his Piano Quintet No.1, was championed by no less an authority than Johannes Brahms. Upon graduating in the spring of 1897, Dohnanyi embarked on a dazzling career as a concert artist, often playing in chamber ensembles. Later, he also devoted considerable time to teaching and conducting.

String Quartet No.2 dates from 1906 and was premiered to great critical acclaim. It is in three movements. The first movement, Andante—Allegro, begins with a slow, broad rising introduction. It is the most important melodic theme of the entire quartet and serves as its motto-motif. The Andante is immediately interrupted by a brief Allegro burst of energy. An Adagio interrupts the Allegro momentarily before it is allowed to begin in earnest. Particularly striking is the fact that it takes place at a rapid tempo while simultaneously the main theme, the motto, is played at its original slow tempo. It sounds as if one is hearing two widely different tempi at once. It is an extraordinary effect and makes an incredible impression. The second movement, Presto acciacato, is a scherzo, opening with a relentless, driving rhythm in the cello. Superimposed periodically on top of this rhythm are warning chords which create a menacing mood of evil. The choral theme of the trio is a pure and innocent prayer. The final movement might well have been subtitled "Apotheosis." Although beginning Molto Adagio, it consists of several other important sections. More accurately it should be entitled Molto Adagio—Animato—Adagio—Andante—Allegro. It begins in a hushed mood similar to the trio section of the preceding scherzo. Suddenly, there is a powerful, angry outburst as the Animato dramatically explodes full of passion. (our sound-bite begins here). In the final part of the Animato, we hear for the first time the entire exposition of the opening Adagio powerfully stated by the viola against a ethereal accompaniment in the violins, playing high on their e strings. The dramatic high point is reached toward the end of the Andante when it comes time for the restatement of the opening motto. The two violins slowly climb ever higher, the second echoing the first each step of the way.

This is one of the greatest, if not the greatest, post-Brahmsian romantic quartet—a superb masterpiece. Nearly all who hear it agree. We urge professional groups to put this incredible quartet onto their programs.

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Joseph Jongen, String Quartet No. 1 in c minor, Op. 3

Joseph Jongen Joseph Jongen (1873-1953), on the strength of an amazing precocity for music, entered the Liege Conservatory (in Belgium) at the extraordinarily young age of seven where he spent the next sixteen years. The admission board was not disappointed. Jongen won a First Prize for Fugue in 1891, an honors diploma in piano the next year and another for organ in 1896 . In 1897, he won the prestigious Grande Prix de Rome which allowed him to travel to Italy, Germany and France. He began composing at the age of 13 and immediately exhibited extraordinary talent. By the time he published his opus one, he already had dozens of works to his credit.

His monumental and massive String Quartet No.1 was composed in 1894 and entered in the annual competition for fine arts held by the Royal Academy of Belgium where it was awarded the top prize by the jury. Its extraordinary power and virtuosity was immediately recognized not only in Belgium but also in France, England and Germany, where it was performed with regularity until after the First World War when highly romantic works went out of fashion.

String Quartet No.1 clearly showcases the outstanding compositional technique which Jongen had at his command. The first movement, Adagio-Allegro risoluto, begins with an incredibly powerful and pregnant slow introduction. The main part of the movement combines an almost frantic, headlong-rushing main theme with a more lyrical second one. It is impossible to give an idea of the massive second movement, Adagio-Allegro agitato-Adagio, without giving a soundbite of both the beautiful slower opening as well as the dance-like second section. Next is an Allegro scherzando-Prestissimo-Tempo di Scherzando, basically a scherzo with a trio section--but here the scherzando is slower and more dance-like while the middle section powerfully blasts forward at incredible speed. The satisfying finale, Allegro molto, is painted on a huge tonal canvas and combines rhythmic force with lyrical melody.

This quartet was immediately recognized as a masterpiece and remains so today. That it is not better known and has not entered the repertoire must in part be explained by the fact that Jongen remained nearly his entire life in tiny Belgium outside of the purview of mainstream musical Europe. Any quartet performing this fine work will be richly rewarded.

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Wilhelm Stenhammar, String Quartet No. 6 in d minor, Op. 35

Wilhelm Stenhammar Stenhammar's sixth and finale string quartet was composed in 1916. It was not a particularly happy time. It distressed him that World War One was destroying the old European civilization and on a personal level, his closest musical friend, the Swedish Violinist Tor Aulin, had recently died. Hence the moods expressed in the Sixth Quartet are those of sadness, depression, anger, and resignation. One is reminded of the same moods found in Beethoven's last quartets, and, it is a certainty that Stenhammar had those works in front of him at the time he composed String Quartet No.6.

Stenhammar's six string quartets are widely regarded as the most important written between those of Brahms and Bartók. Tonally, they range from the middle late Romantics to late Sibelius. Though not unknown by the Swedish chamber music public, his string quartets have been sadly neglected elsewhere.

Wilhelm Stenhammar (1871-1927) was trained as a pianist, became a virtuoso and was considered the finest Swedish pianist of his time. Concert pianists who venture into the realm of the string quartet often wind up writing compositions which sound like they were composed at, and are perhaps better played at, the piano. That Stenhammar's works show no such trait is due entirely to the fact that for nearly half of his life, he worked intimately with the Aulin Quartet, the top Swedish string quartet of its day and one of the best then performing in Europe.

The opening movement to Quartet No.6, Tempo moderato un poco rubato, though not funereal, clearly conveys the feelings sadness and loss. The tempo never speeds up and the players are warned off keeping a strict tempo. The Allegro which follows, while not exactly bright, does have a lighter bustling, if somewhat subdued quality. Next there is a beautiful, Poco adagio, valedictory and resigned. It is in the startlingly powerful finale, Presto, that highly charged emotional torrents are released. The main theme is a reverse paraphrase from the scherzo of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. Long unisono passages give the music an almost unmatched intensity in the literature and remind one of the power of a Sibelius symphonic work.

This is an outstanding masterwork. Stenhammar had pared down his technique to achieve a taut simplicity and the work plays easily with few if any real technical difficulties. Though it belongs in the concert repertoire, amateurs will surely enjoy the chance to play a work of this caliber without struggling.

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Wilhelm Hill, Violin Sonata in e minor, Op. 20

Wilhelm Hill Wilhelm Hill (1838-1902) was born in the German city of Fulda. He studied piano and violin locally before moving to Frankfurt where he studied with Heinrich Henkel and Johann Christian Haupff. Except for a few short intervals, Hill remained in Frankfurt for the rest of his life where he gained a reputation both as a piano teacher and composer. He knew and was on friendly terms with many of the important composers of his day including Brahms, Anton Rubinstein and Louis Spohr. Spohr's high praise of Hill's first piano trio helped to make him better known in chamber music circles around Frankfurt. He wrote in most genres and, as far as chamber music goes, composed two piano trios, a string quartet, several instrumental sonatas and this piano quartet.

The Violin Sonata in e minor, Op.20 dates from 1860. It was dedicated to his teacher Henkel. It is a lovely mid Romantic era work in four movements: Allegro non troppo, Andante sostenuto, Scherzo allegro vivace and Allegro moderato.

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Édouard Lalo, Cello Sonata in a minor

Édouard Lalo While the Cello Concerto of Édouard Lalo (1823-1892) is fairly well-known, his Cello Sonata in a minor, composed in 1856, is not. Interestingly, it was dedicated to the famous piano virtuoso and composer Anton Rubinstein. The Sonata begins with a dramatic Andante non troppo with contrasting Allegro interludes which follow. The second movement, Andante ben sostenuto is a calm and gentle affair. The finale, Allegro, is thrusting and powerful.

Lalo was born in Lille and studied at the local conservatory there before entering the Paris Conservatory, where he studied with the well-known French violinist and conductor, François Habeneck. Before he made a name for himself as a composer, for nearly two decades, Lalo made his living working as a violinist, and in particular, performing chamber music. If one considers this, it is perhaps not so surprising that he was able to write such attractive and finished chamber works. In describing Lalo's music, it is clear that he has a gift for writing appealing melodies. His tonal world is that of Schumann and Mendelssohn but modified by uncommonly colorful and exotic harmonies, sometime bizarre rhythms and the use of powerful contrasts in dynamics. Structurally, Lalo was influenced by Beethoven, Mendelssohn and Schumann, most probably because his teacher had helped to popularize their music within France.

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Teresa Carreño, String Quartet in b minor

Teresa Carreño Teresa Carreño (1853-1917) was born in Caracas, Venezuela. She showed extraordinary musical promise at an early age. Her earliest compositions, short piano pieces, date from her sixth year. The brilliance of her piano playing soon provided the decisive impetus for her family's decision to leave Venezuela. In 1862, the family moved to New York City where she studied with the American virtuoso Louis Moreau Gottschalk. In 1866, her family relocated to Paris where she played for Rossini and Liszt, and befriended Gounod and Saint-Saëns. A few years later she began a career as a concertizing virtuoso pianist. Although she was considered one of the finest pianists of her day, she also pursued a career as an opera singer and conductor.

Although she mainly composed for the piano, she composed a string quartet and serenade for string orchestra. Of her String Quartet in b minor, the famous chamber music critic Wilhelm Altmann, writing in his Handbook for String Quartet Players, has this to say about it:

"In 1896, Teresa Carreño, the famous piano virtuosa composed a string quartet which shows a thoroughly sound grasp of quartet technique and style, Particularly praiseworthy is the concise construction of each of the four movements. The main theme of the opening movement, Allegro, is a characteristically dramatic melody while the second subject, introduced by the viola, is more lyrical and expressive. Most fetching of all is a third theme, marked ‘con dolore.’ The second movement, Andante, has for a main theme a reflective, somewhat sad melody which recalls that of the slow movement to Haydn’s Op.77 No.2, the Second Lobkowitz Quartet. Particularly effective is the dramatic middle section marked Agitato con passione. Next comes a restless Mendelssohnian Scherzo, Allegro ma non troppo. The lovely trio section provides a fine contrast. The powerful finale, Allegro risoluto, is full of energy and vigor. The development is well done and in the final section a magnificent fugue appears. From the time of its first appearance, this Quartet received considerable notice."

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Franz Krommer, String Quintet in G major, Op. 8, No. 3

Franz Krommer "Franz Krommer's String Quintets are sure to please those chamber music players seeking something new and fresh from the classical era. They can be recommended for concert performance as well as to amateur enthusiasts."

—the famous chamber music critic Wilhelm Altmann writing in his Chamber Music Handbook.

Krommer’s String Quintet in G Major, Op.8 No.3 is the third of a set of six completed in 1797. The Op.8 was his first set of string quintets. They are historically important because they show what an important contemporary of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven was doing. The only Viennese Viola Quintets of any import prior to these were Mozart’s. Haydn never wrote any. Krommer's first set of quintets were composed before Beethoven’s first set of quartets and even before all but one of his string trios. Krommer’s music is original, that is to say, it does not sound like an imitation of Haydn or Mozart, though one can hear their influence as they served as his models. His use of chromaticism is striking and the treatment of the cello is better than Mozart's. Quintet No.3 is in four movements. It opens with an upbeat and genial Allegro vivace. The Adagio which follows is a Haydnesque a theme and set of variations. The third movement, Menuetto allegretto is a typical Viennese quick step Menuet. The finale, though with no tempo marking, is clearly a playful, bustling Rondo, allegro

Franz Krommer (1759-1831) was born in town of Kamnitz then part of the Habsburg Austrian Empire (today Kamenice in the Czech Republic) It had a mixed population of Germans and Czechs and though baptized František Vincenc Kramář by the time he was 15, Krommer began using the Germanized version of his name for the rest of his life, the name by which he became known to the world. Krommer was one of the most successful composers in Vienna at the turn of the 18th Century. His reputation was attested to by the fact that his works were frequently republished throughout Germany, England, France, Italy, Scandinavia and even the United States. According to several contemporary sources he was regarded with Haydn as the leading composer of string quartets and as a serious rival of Beethoven. Krommer was a violinist of considerable ability who came to Vienna around 1785. For the following 10 years he held appointments at various aristocratic courts in Hungary. He returned to Vienna in 1795 where he remained until his death, holding various positions including that of Court Composer (Hofmusiker) to the Emperor, Franz I, an enthusiastic quartet player. He was the last composer to hold this august title and one of his duties was accompanying the Emperor on his various campaigns so that he could relax in the evenings playing quartets. There are more than 300 compositions which were at one time or another published, much of which is chamber music. He wrote more than 70 string quartets, 35 quintets, perhaps as many as 15 string trios, but also several works for winds and strings.

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Franz Schmidt, String Quartet No. 1 in A major

Franz Schmidt Franz Schmidt (1874-1939) was born in the Austrian city of Pressburg (now Bratislava) and began his musical training there. Subsequently, in Vienna, he studied cello with Franz Hellmesberger and piano with Theodor Leschetizky. At the Vienna Conservatory, his composition teachers were Robert Fuchs and Anton Bruckner. Schmidt served as a cellist in the Vienna Court Opera Orchestra (1896-1911) and played under Mahler. From the First World War until his retirement, he held many important teaching posts, eventually serving as the director of the Vienna Staatsakademie as well as Hochschule für Musik.

Schmidt's roots are to be found in the Viennese Romanticism of his master Bruckner. Although not a prolific composer, he is nonetheless considered the last of the great romantic symphonists. His four chamber music works—2 string quartets, a piano quintet and a quintet for piano, clarinet and string trio-are among his most important.

His First String Quartet dates from 1925. Writing of the work in his Handbook for String Quartet Players, Wilhelm Altmann remarks that no quartet or chamber music society should overlook this fine work. From a tonal standpoint, one might say that it begins where Bruckner’s marvelous string quintet leaves off. Though clearly rooted in traditional tonality, it nonetheless pushes these boundaries ever farther. The opening movement, Anmutig bewegt, (graceful, but with movement) almost sounds as if it begins in mid phrase. The main theme only takes shape slowly and over a very broad tonal canvas as Schmidt gradually fleshes it out by way of development. The stunning second movement, Adagio, is clearly the center of gravity of the quartet. The haunting main theme is first given out by the cello before it is taken up by the violins. It is calm and with broad vistas and requires great space to make its affect. Schmidt builds in small increments quite leisurely. In the powerful middle section, the viola forcefully declaims the dramatic second theme. Then against the hypnotic pizzicato in the lower voices, the violins embark upon an extraordinarily beautiful duet. Next comes a scherzo, Sehr lebhaft. (very lively) It starts in a very Brucknerian vein but the middle section, which resembles an elves dance because of its harmonics and high pitched running notes, sounds more like a post-Brucknerian Mendelssohn. The finale, Ruhig fließend, (quiet but flowing) is a theme and set of several very original variations.

Unquestionably a masterpiece that belongs in the concert hall, but because it presents no insurmountable technical difficulties, amateurs will also enjoy this fine work.

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Nikolay Roslavets, Piano Trio No. 3

Nikolai Roslavets Nikolai Roslavets' Piano Trio No.3 was begun in 1921 in Kharov and published in 1925. It is in one big movement with many subsections. While his earlier trios had been characterized by outbursts of tremendous and strident violence, the trio is more lyrical in nature. The entire work is essentially calm and reflective although there are moments of dramatic passion as well.

Nikolai Roslavets (1881-1944) is one of the most important figures and a pioneer in the Russian modernist music movement, which became known as Russian Futurism. He had a traditional enough musical education. He came somewhat late (1902) to the Moscow Conservatory where he studied violin and composition, the latter with Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov, no modernist to be sure, among others. Surprisingly, it took him 10 years to graduate (1912). But already by 1910, he was attracting the attention of Russian Futurist painters and writers. Influenced by the later works of Alexander Scriabin, Roslavets sought a new means of expression. Hard to believe but as early as 1907, he created what he called "a new system of sound organization" which was arrived at independently from and before Schoenberg's twelve-tone serialism. It does have several similarities and this led to Roslavets being referred to, as early as 1912, as "the Russian Schoenberg." However, Nikolai Myaskovsky and several other Russian composers, none of whom were modernists, pointed out the original nature of Roslavets' style, which owed nothing to Schoenberg. During the heady days after the Russian Revolution, Roslavets became one of the leading Soviet composers of the New Music Movement and one of its strongest advocates. But after Stalin's rise to power, his music was banned and he was considered an enemy of the State. Roslavets "new system of sound organization" for the most part consists of chords of six to nine tones. In the 1920s Roslavets developed his system further, expanding it to encompass counterpoint, rhythm, and musical form while elaborating new principles of teaching.

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Mikhail Glinka, Divertimento brilliante (sopra Alcuni della "Sonnambula" di Bellini)

Mikhail Glinka The Divertimento brillante dates from 1832 during a period during which Glinka was residing in Milan and preoccupied with the idea writing an opera. Taking in an opera at La Scala as often as he could, Glinka came under the thrall of several Italian composers, in particular Bellini and Donizetti. In his memoirs, Glinka wrote that he had intended the piano part for a Miss Pollini, one of his students who apparently was a superb pianist, judging from the technical demands found in the piano part. The melodic material comes from the opera La Sonnambula by his friend Vincezo Bellini. The work is in one long movement and has an introduction followed by four contrasting sections. The most impressive is the brilliant finale from which the work, no doubt, takes its name.

Mikhail Glinka (1804-57) is commonly regarded as the founder of Russian nationalism in music. His influence on composers such as Rimsky-Korsakov, Borodin and Mussorgsky was considerable. As a child, he had some lessons from the famous Irish virtuoso pianist John Field who was living in Petersburg, but his association with music remained purely amateur, until visits to Europe which began in 1830. In both Italy and Germany, he was able to formally study and improve his compositional technique. His music offered a synthesis of Western operatic form with Russian melody, while his instrumental music was a combination of the traditional and the exotic.

The Divertimento brillante calls for the same combination as some other works we offer which you may wish to obtain so you can make a night of it. These include Glinka's Grand Sextet, William Sterndale Bennett's Piano Sextet, Sergei Lyapunov's Piano Sextet, Paul Juon's Piano Sextet, George Onslow's Piano Sextet, Felix Weingartner's Piano Sextet, and Henri Bertini's Piano Sextet No.3

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Hans Pfitzner, Cello Sonata in f-sharp minor, Op. 1

Hans Pfitzner Hans Pfitzner (1869–1949) was born in Moscow of German parents. His father was a professional violinist from whom he received violin lessons. Later he studied piano and composition at the Hoch Conservatory in Frankfurt. He enjoyed a long career as a conductor and teacher. His music was held in high regard by contemporaries such as Richard Strauss and Gustav Mahler. Pfitzner was an avowed opponent of the Second Vienna School with its serialism and atonal music. Instead, he sought new paths for traditional tonality. He composed in nearly every genre and is best known for his operas. He did not ignore chamber music, writing a number of string quartets, two piano trios, a piano quintet and a few instrumental sonatas

His Cello Sonata in f-sharp minor dates from 1890 and was completed two years after Brahms' Second Cello Sonata with which Pfitzner was certainly familiar given that his teachers in Frankfurt were virtually all Brahmsians. Though the opus number is one, it is certainly not Pfitzner's first work. Many, without opus, preceded it. While the ideas within the sonata are highly original the influence of Brahms can be heard. But to be clear, Pfitzner's cello sonata, though sometimes called Brahms' third cello sonata, sounds no more like Brahms than Brahms' first symphony, which was called Beethoven's 10th, sounds like Beethoven. In four movements, it opens Sehr bewegt with lyrical expansive melodies. Particularly striking is Pfitzner's occasional economy of expression---at one point the cello repeatedly plays but one note, and yet the effect is as if this were not the case. The second movement, Sehr langsam, begins quite slowly but gradually the tempo is increased to a very impressive dramatic climax. The third movement, So schnell als möglich, is a new kind of scurrying scherzo without trio. The finale, Nicht zu schnell, like the first movement is broad with expansive ideas.

The fact that critics called this work Brahms' third cello sonata, is an indication of just how fine they regarded this important sonata. Cellists would do well to incorporate it into their repertoire and perform it in recital where it is sure to leave a strong impression.

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Alexander Alyabyev, String Quartet No. 3 in G major, Nightingale

“Fate is quixotic. Glinka is known as the 'Father of Russian Music', yet Alyabiev began composing his 500 works long before Glinka was on the scene and probably was just as deserving of the title Father of Russian Music. He wrote several operas on Russian subjects long before Glinka did, e.g. Prisoner of the Caucasus based on Pushkin."

The Chamber Music Journal

Alexander Alyabiev (1787-1851) (also transliterated variously as Aliabiev, Alyabyev, Alabiev, Alaybieff etc.) was born in the Siberian city of Tobolsk which served as the capital of Western Siberia until 1917. At the time of his birth, his father was governor of the province. The family moved to St. Petersburg in 1796 where Alyabiev received piano lessons. He lived a rather romantic life, joining the Tsar’s army to fight against the invading French in 1812. He took part in the Battle of Borodino. It was about this time that his first songs were published. He became a decorated officer and continued to serve with the Army until 1823 after which he lived in St. Petersburg. He was suspected of being a member of the Decembrists, a group which tried to assassinate the Tsar in 1825. Proof was hard to come by so a false charge of murder was lodged against him. After a rigged trial, he was exiled to Siberia until 1832 after which time he was allowed to move to the Caucasus for medical reasons. He lived there until 1843 and much of his music shows the influence of this region.

Alyabiev wrote works in virtually every genre and is thought to have penned 3 string quartets, 2 piano trios, a piano quintet, a woodwind quintet and several instrumental sonatas. Today he is remembered for one piece, a song The Nightingale, which became incredibly famous and has remained in the repertoire. His other works, many of which were censored, fell into oblivion and he remained forgotten until the centennial anniversary of his death in 1951 brought about renewed interest in his works. Literally hundreds lay untouched and forgotten in the dusty archives of the Central Moscow State Museum Library.

Alyabiev's String Quartet No.3 dates from 1825. In four movements, a genial opening Allegro followed by a Scherzo (Minuet), Allegro, then an Adagio which is based on his famous song The Nightingale. This adagio is a marvelous set of variations, the most striking of which is given to the cello. The work ends with a lively Allegro. It shows that Alyabiev was not only conversant with the music of the Vienna classics but also with the emerging early Romantic style. It belongs with the early Beethoven and middle Schubertian works.

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Darius Milhaud, La Création du monde (Suite de concert pour piano et quatour à cordes), Op. 81

Darius Milhaud Le Creation du Monde can be traced back Milhaud’s 1920 trip to London where he first encountered jazz. He was so enamored of it, that he planned a trip to Harlem in New York City, the home of the so called “real jazz". In 1922, he traveled to New York, visiting Harlem where he spent his time mingling with jazz musicians. The experience made a lasting impression on him. When he returned to Paris, to his surprise, he found that jazz had already arrived. The black American jazz singer Josephine Baker, then active in Paris was immensely popular, and the sounds of Le Jazz Hot could be heard in all of the caberets over the city. Milhaud began writing in what he called a jazz idiom, using the melodies and rhythms of the blues. La Creation du Monde was meant to be a ballet. The score called for a small orchestra of seventeen instruments. The ballet was an immediate success, many said because of the risqué costumes. Nonetheless, at the suggestion of friends, Milhaud also made a version for piano and string quartet shortly thereafter. In five movements, the work opens with a melancholy Prelude which has many of the elements heard later. Next comes a lively jazzy Fugue. The third movement is a gentler Romance. Then comes a rollicking Scherzo. The finale, the longest of the movements, has all of the moods of the preceding movements and is a summation.

Darius Milhaud (1892-1974) was born in in the French city of Marsailles. He studied composition at the Paris Conservatory with Charles-Marie Widor and became a member of the so called "Les Six", a group of modernist French composer who were active during the first part of the 20th century. During the course of his long career, he frequently traveled abroad, sometimes for pleasure, sometimes from necessity. During the First World War, Milhaud served as secretary to the French ambassador to Brazil. During the Second World War, he moved to America during the Nazi occupation of France. The sights and sounds of the cultures of he saw always interested him. In his music one often hears the sounds of Brazilian dances and American, but also the “modern” trends of French music during the 1910s and 1920s.

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Johan Wikmanson, String Quartet in d minor, Op. 1, No. 1

Johan Wikmanson (1753-1800) was born in Stockholm and, except for 18 months spent in Copenhagen studying mathematics and instrument making, lived his entire life in the Swedish capital. He was a superb organist and for many years held the post of organist at the Storkyrkan, Stockholm's principal church. He was also an accomplished cellist. Nonetheless, like most Swedish musicians of this era, he was unable to earn his living solely as a practicing musician and was forced to find employment as a government accountant. He did, however, obtain some recognition during his lifetime. In 1788, he was made a member of the Swedish Royal Academy and later was put in charge of its music program.

Wikmanson composed five string quartets, none which were published during his lifetime. After his early death of tuberculosis in 1800, his friend Gustav Silverstolpe published, at his own expense, what he considered to be the three best, titling them Opus 1. Later, Silverstolpe gave the rights to the well-known German publisher Breitkopf and Härtel, hoping they would publish the quartets and hence give them wider circulation. However, this appears not to have happened. No new edition appeared for more than 170 years and that one is now out-of-print.

We do not know exactly when "String Quartet No.1", as Silverstolpe styled it, was composed. It certainly was not the first and most scholars believe it was probably his fifth and last quartet. There is evidence to support this in that Silverstolpe selected what he (and most others) considered the strongest work to be placed first in the set of three which he published. This was common practice because it was generally felt that it was the first quartet in the book which got people in the door so to speak, i.e. got them interested in playing the others. The weakest was usually placed in the middle and another strong work at the end. The Op.1 Quartets were dedicated to Haydn, albeit posthumously. Though Wikmanson did not know Haydn personally, it is clear that he was familiar with Haydn's quartets, including the Op.76 which were published in 1799, the year before his death. Haydn for his part, was very impressed by these works and to stimulate interest in them.

String Quartet No.1 is in four movements: Allegro, Adagio, Minuetto and Allegro. It is the equal of any of Haydn's Op.64 quartets and in some ways, in advance of them, particularly in its excellent use of the viola and cello. The most striking movement is the marvelous Adagio, a powerful funeral march--which was performed at Wikmanson's own funeral. It is reminiscent of the slow movement to Haydn's Op.20 No.2, one of the finest Haydn ever wrote. The minuet is also grave in mood although its lovely trio is much like an Austrian Ländler. The finale features a wild racing melody with a surprise ending.

Our entirely reset new edition is based on a copy of the 1801 Silverstolpe publication by the Stockholm firm of Olaf Åhlström. It was edited by R.H.R. Silvertrust. We feel confident that this classical era string quartet with its freshness and originality will give great pleasure to chamber music lovers everywhere.

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