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Siete qui: Home Festival Festival 2009 A century of Quartets
A century of Quartets PDF Print E-mail
by Monica Rosolen

The family of String Quartets dialogue inter pares between instruments of the same kind – was born during the second half of the Eighteenth century and has different international roots. In particular, it comes from the divertissment of the German tongue countries. Haydn, simply considered the father of this form, has undoubtedly refined the Quartet’s composition style, bringing it to a more definitive and modern form, has left us a generous production and has used for the first time the term Quartett.
Composition written during the mature age of the Austrian musician, the Quartet op. 77 no. 1 has been conceived between 1798 and the beginning of the XIX century, commissioned by prince Lobkowitz; the author’s original intention was to compose as usual a series of six scores, but he abandons the idea (the op. 77 is made up of two numbers) because at the same time he was finishing the final version of the Seasons. Great skill and innovations characterize this masterpiece; in particular the Third movement, Menuetto, is in reality a skilful Scherzo with surprising momentum and penetrating tension. Debussy prefers contamination and reciprocal inspiration between the arts, and he manifests his desire of crossing the boundaries of his own discipline. His Strings Quartet, permeated by this vision, example of absolute music, is a true masterpiece.

In different periods of his life Borodin is interpreter – as worthy non-professional cellist – and composer of chamber music. The creation of the famous Strings Quartet no. 2 in D major was quick: in 1881 the composer probably dedicated it to his wife, for their twentieth wedding anniversary. Compared to his Sting Quartet no. 1, the new composition sounds slighter, with a low-density structure, also thanks to a soft writing. The first movement reveals oriental atmospheres, near to the Rimsky-Korsakov suggestions.The French musician uses an ephemeral mosaic form to emotionally stir and awake during the whole listening. This Quartet identifies with its cyclic nature: thematic unity and the transformations created by the author are genial and confer an extraordinary softness to the melodic discourse. The cold response of public and the rare favourable comments, very prudent (only Paul Dukasis is enthusiastic), during this score’s premiere, is due to the originality of phrasing, to the rapidity of the modulations, so numerous that they determine great tonal restlessness and to the extreme difficulty of performance.

The second movement is a Scherzo introduced, instead of the usual slow tempo, by a brilliant theme, followed by a charming waltz that soon disappears: an example of a Borodin’s unusual harmonies treating.
The Andante of the third movement, is a famous Notturno (frequently played as unicum) exposed by a cello – one of the composer’s favourite instrument, as showed in the first theme of the Quartet.
Some bars of the Notturno reappear as opening of the Finale, playing imitations between the instruments; musical fragments are interrupted by lively themes, finally contrasted by a Vivace section. This last movement, less spontaneous than the previous, loses the oriental suggestions. The composer’s technical mastery and his contrapuntistic quality (inspired to Beethoven) come out, revealing him, often considered an amateur, as a great talent.