Juan Crisóstomo de Arriaga

Juan Crisóstomo de Arriaga (1806-1826)

Nationality: Spanish | Basque
Born: January 27, 1806, Bilbao Burried: January 17, 1826, Paris (age 20)

String Quartet No. 2 in A major

(for 2 violins, viola and cello)
8:45 I. Allegro con brio
6:34 II. Andante con variazioni
3:14 III. Menuetto. Scherzo
4:48 IV. Andante ma non troppo - Allegro
Duration: 23 minutes (approximately)
Composed: c. 1823 (age 16-17)
Published: 1824 (age 17-18)
4 recordings, 13 videos
autoopen autoplay
8:54
Guarneri Quartet
I. Allegro con brio
6:30
Guarneri Quartet
II. Andante con variazioni
3:24
Guarneri Quartet
III. Menuetto. Scherzo
4:31
Guarneri Quartet
IV. Andante ma non troppo - Allegro
9:02
Quartet Sine Nomine
I. Allegro con brio
6:50
Quartet Sine Nomine
II. Andante con variazioni
2:59
Quartet Sine Nomine
III. Menuetto. Scherzo
5:33
Quartet Sine Nomine
IV. Andante ma non troppo - Allegro
8:06
La Ritirata
I. Allegro con brio
6:31
La Ritirata
II. Andante con variazioni
3:00
La Ritirata
III. Menuetto. Scherzo
4:57
La Ritirata
IV. Andante ma non troppo - Allegro
21:53
Guilet Quartet
From Edition Silvertrust

Juan Cristostomo Jacobo Antonio de Arriaga y Balzola (1806-26) died shortly before his 20th birthday but during his short life showed tremendous promise. He was born in the Spanish-Basque city of Bilbao. His father was a part-time musician, and it did not escape his notice that Juan been born on the 50th anniversary of Mozart’s birth. As a result, the first two Christian names of both composers are the same. It is for this reason and his prodigious talent that Arriaga became known as the “Spanish Mozart.” Interestingly, his music sounds more like Schubert - whose music he was unlikely ever to have heard - than that of either Mozart or Haydn.

A child prodigy, by age 10, he was playing 2nd violin in a professional string quartet and had written an Octet for String Quartet, Bass, Trumpet, Guitar and Piano. Like Mozart, Arriaga composed his first opera, Los Esclavos Felices (The Happy Slaves) at the age of 13. It was performed immediately and enjoyed considerable local success. Recognizing that their son was more than just talented, Arriaga’s parents decided to send him to Paris to further his musical education. There he studied violin with Baillot and composition with Fetis, the well-known music historian. Fetis later wrote that Arriaga mastered harmony in three months and counterpoint in under two years. By 1824, at the age of 18, Arriaga was appointed to teach harmony and counterpoint at the Conservatory. His three string quartets, which were composed during 1821-22 at the age of 15 and were the only works published during his lifetime.

The opening movement, Allegro con brio, to String Quartet No.2 in A Major has for its main subject an attractive, bravura theme in the violin. Its rhythm seems to be based on his surname. The cello cleverly answers in its lower register finishing the phrase. Arriaga was particularly alive to the cello’s possibilities without actually having to give it a solo as he did in the first quartet. The second movement, Andante, is a theme and set of five variations. The theme is very simple, on the order of a children’s nursery melody but but the variations are ingenious and well-constructed. A Minuetto which follows is slight and has a classical Viennese sound to it. The gentle trio though unremarkable provides a good contrast. The finale, Andante ma non troppo-Allegro, is a stop-go or slow-fast situation a little akin to the last movement to Beethoven’s Sixth Quartet, La Malinconia. The skill, contrast and change of mood all illustrate Arriaga’s skill.

© Edition Silvertrust. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


Related Composers

1800 Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) Luigi Cherubini (1760-1842) Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) Pierre Baillot (1771-1842) François-Joseph Fétis (1784-1871) Gioachino Rossini (1792-1868) Franz Schubert (1797-1828) Juan Crisóstomo de Arriaga (1806-1826) Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)
Pierre Baillot (1771-1842)
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Nationality: French
Born: October 1, 1771, Passy Died: September 15, 1842, Paris (age 70)
François-Joseph Fétis (1784-1871)
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Nationality: Belgian
Born: March 25, 1784, Mons Died: March 26, 1871, Brussels (age 87)
Luigi Cherubini (1760-1842)
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Nationality: Italian
Born: September 8, 1760, Florence Died: March 15, 1842, Paris (age 81)