Friday, September 12, 2014

Top 20 Recommended Romantic String Quartet Composers You'll Need to Know

I always want to write this one down. List of important string quartet repertoire, which is almost identically as string quartet composers, that you will also extremely need to know. That's say, this list try to exclude the stable, canonic, over played, over recorded string quartet repertoire from mega-famous composers:

Joseph Hayden
Wolfgang A. Mozart
Ludwig van Beethoven
Frank Schubert
Johannes Brahms
Felix Mendelssohn
Antonin Dvorak
Ravel + Debussy
Bela Bartok
Dmitry Shostakovich
even Borodin and Tchaikovsky can be added here.

This list also exclude endless repertoire from the Classical era, which I already listed out top ten of important composer to listen HERE.

Top 20 Other Romantic String Quartet Composers You'll Need to Know
(in born-chronological order)

01. Luigi Cherubini (1760–1842)
Cherubini's six string quartets are legends. They are all super well written in the Romantic melodious way, despite the year where many still follows Haydn's Classical era string quartets. I listen to String Quartet no.3 in Dm and then no.6 in Am, these are quartet made in the height of Italian melodic. Shame that less quartet performed these works as it is as great as early Beethoven quartets.
Recommended works:
Melos String Quartet Cherubini String Quartets Nos 1-6
Quartteto David : Cherubini String Quartet Vol.1 - Vol.2 - Vol.3

02. George Onslow (1784–1853) 36
George Onslow is extremely forgotten these years. His string quartets, about 36 of them is even unheard anymore. Only few quartets are recorded as the time of writing.
Recommended works:
Mandelring Quartet: Onslow: String Quartets Op. 9 & 47
Mandelring Quartet: Onslow: String Quartets, Vol. 2 
Quatuor Ruggieri
Read also Article

03. Louis Spohr (1784–1859)
There are only one set of Louis Spohr's 37 string quartets, they are recorded by Marco Polo with several quartets playing. All quartet are recorded in a huge 17 volumes of them. Listen to the height of Mannheim school in chamber version. Spohr has a distinguished melody, all quartet share this similar style. They may sounds very close between each quartet, but then Spohr amazingly able to composed 37 quartet though.
Recommended works:
Spohr string quartets Vol.17
Read also full article

04. Juan Crisóstomo Arriaga (1806–1826)
Recently Juan Arriage got a booming recording of his enigmatic three string quartets. His brief existence on Earth, only 20 years old, may contribute to his fame. Before the quartet when viral in the future, familiar your self with his only three quartets, in D minor, A Major and E flat Major.
Recommended works:
Camerata Boccherini
Guarneri String Quartet

05. Giuseppe Verdi (1813–1901)
Only one, String Quartet in Em. When it came from Verdi then it can't be missed. Indeed the quartet is quite celebrated as per now.
Recommended works:
Delme string quartet : Verdi and Strauss
Quartteto Italiano : Verdi, Donizetti and Cambini

06. Antonio Bazzini (1818-1897)
Famous only with his violin repertoire, Antonio Bazzini composed six string quartets full of melodious line. There are maybe only one recording of it, by the Venezia String Quartet

07. Bedřich Smetana (1824–1884)
Smetana two string quartets actually has stable inclusion of today's repertoire. Must listen.
Recommended works:
Stamitz Quartet Czech String Quartets

08. Camille Saint-Saëns (1835–1921) 
Though popular, Camille Saint-Saens two string quartets are his lesser known works. Quartet no.2 in G in the third movement show some of the best four parts melodies conversation that a string quartets composer always trying to do.
Recommended works:
Castillon String Quartet

09. Max Bruch (1838–1920)
Always the same sentiment with Camille Saint-Saens, Max Bruch also composed two string quartets which is largely forgotten. Eclipsed by his Violin Concerto, Max Bruch quartet is dark in the first quartet in Em, then there is beautiful Quartet no.2 in E Major Op.10. Read also full article
Recommended works:
Mannheim String Quartet

10. Leoš Janáček (1854–1928)
Fortunately Leos Janacek repertoire is respectable and popular by now. Of course string quartet no.2 nickname "Intimate Letter" is the famous one, but I found the first quartet in is delightful as well.
Recommended works:
Panocha Quartet

11. Sergei Ivanovich Taneyev (1856–1915)
From Russian, Sergei Taneyev is the front of his contemporary about string quartets. Nine had been published by Sergei, with Quartet No.3 in Dm maybe his most popular one. The complete set only published by Northern Flower in 1977. That extremely negligence of this gems.
Recommended works:
The Taneyev Quartet: Taneyev Complete String Quartets
Carpe Diem String Quartet - article

12. Joseph Guy Ropartz (1865-1936)
Guy Ropartz is the other guy who perhaps never heard before. A French composer with six beautifully written quartets , mostly comprise selection of folk melody in it. Only one complete set of quartet being recorded by Quatuor Stanislav.

13. Jean Sibelius (1865–1957)
Big uncle Sibelius wrote three string quartet, one with nickname "Voice Intimae" is enjoying his status as 'alternative repertoire' to other over popular quartet such as Ravel or Brahms. Take another shot to listen to this technically beautiful quartet.
Recommended works:
Emerson String Quartet - Sibelius and Grieg
Tempera String Quartet

14. John Blackwood McEwen (1868–1948) - 17
UK composer Sir John Blackwood McEwen composed about seventeen quartets and only half being recorded in three volume of CD. You'll probably haven't heard about McEwen. These are UK best kept secret of their late Romantic era with many quartet push to the boundary of 20th century style. Chilingirian Quartet recorded his works. Read also : Review of McEwen string quartet

15. Wilhelm Stenhammar (1871–1927)
Another string quartet cycle you'll need to know is the six quartets of Wilhelm Stenhammar. Just jump to my favorite string quartet no.3 in F Major to examined how Wilhelm written developed nice melody into four part voices. The quartet has begin to enjoy some popularity with several recordings.
Recommended works:
Oslo String Quartet - CPO label
Copenhagen String Quartet
Other recordings and Further reading

16. Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872–1958)
Everything from R.V Williams sounds beautiful, so do the two quartets. Expected a thick UK landscape folk music in it.
Recommended works:
Maggini String Quartet

18. Nikolai Myaskovsky (1881–1950) 13
Mainly an opera and symphony composer, Nikolai Myaskovsky has a huge catalog of inspiring string quartets. Thirteen of them , all came with heavy weight melancholy composition. They will bring you to the first years of 20th century landscape. Nikolai Myaskovsky string quartets is a must-listen stuff if you are serious to delved into string quartet genre. His number #13 is the most popular work. Only published by Northern Flower by The Taneyev String Quartet, very rare stuff. Read also full article.

19. Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887–1959)
From Latin America comes Heitor Villa-Lobos with his seventeen string quartets. They are far advance in the 20th century music, yet it is not atonal works, and still very 'listenable' to Romantic lover. Villa-Lobos quartets is quite popular by now.
Recommended works:
Danubius Complete Villa-Lobos String Quartets

20. Bohuslav Martinů (1890–1959) - 10 only 8 survive
Only eight of his quartet survive out of ten. These eight series of Late Czech string quartet will bring you to the War times era.
Recommended works:
Panocha String Quartet

21. Vissarion Shebalin (1902–1963)
Student of Nicolai Myaskovsky, Vissarion Shebalin is another neglected Russian composer with serious string quartet. Nine of them, and the world only have one version of them. The Krasni string quartet recorded them all. There are several string quartet recorded partial of Shebalin quartet though. Enjoy the war times era , Stalinism feel on these quartets.

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