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Naxos proudly presents specially chosen packages of String Quartets highlighting the development from the early classical models to the highly expressive Romantic period to contemporary, individual ways of composing for this sophisticated genre. Expand your classical music library at a special price when you buy a complete package or purchase the featured ClassicsOnline Exclusive Sampler and get a discount code you can use on ANY title in this feature. We present the String Quartets in two parts.



Part 1 - Haydn

Haydn was the first master of Classical string quartet writing. Between 1755 an 1799 he composed more than 80 string quartets that show his personal progress as a composer and charts the development of the genre from the ‘divertimento’ style of light entertainment to the more profound forms composed for the concert stage. Stendhal described the string quartet as “similar to the conversation of four friends”, while Goethe heard a “discussion between four reasonable people”.

Haydn’s string quartets were of major influence on other composers, especially Mozart, who dedicated his mature quartets to the elder master. In this package you can discover some of Haydn’s early string quartets and enjoy such famous works as the ‘Emperor’, the ‘Prussian’ and the ‘Sun Quartets’.

Part 2 - Mozart

Mozart’s string quartets show an extraordinary development from the early works that – like Haydn’s – had a divertimento-like character, through the middle quartets that explore new textures and compositional methods to his incredibly beautiful final quartets with their daring harmonies and captivating melodies. His last six string quartets dedicated to his close friend, Haydn, are outstanding masterpieces. The 'Dissonance' quartet became particularly famous as it starts with a slow introduction, something very experimental during this time, an idea which Haydn himself borrowed for the sinfonia that opens his oratorio The Creation


Part 1 - German String Quartets

This package contains some of the best loved Romantic string quartets, including Schubert’s Death and the Maiden and Rosamunde Quartets, and Schumann’s expressive and highly Romantic quartets, as well as the truly beautiful works by Mendelssohn and Brahms – delightful, emotional pieces.

You can also enjoy Bruckner’s only string quartet, one by Reger, and two of Spohr’s numerous string quartets, in which he merged influences of the Viennese Classics with the virtuosic violin style of the period.

Part 2 - Czech & Slovak String Quartets

The string quartet in C Minor by Slovak composer Ján Levoslav Bella delights with its masterful treatment of harmonies and surprising changes of keys, making it an impressive example of late 19th century chamber music.

Smetana’s semi-autobiographical first string quartet ‘From my Life’ reflects on the composer’s life, including a poignant depiction of his oncoming deafness. His second quartet was composed during his final years and contains reminiscences of Beethoven’s late string quartets. 

Among Dvořák’s string quartets the ‘American’, which recalls impressions from his time in ‘The New World’, is his best loved, but among the others presented in this package are many more beautiful treasures.

Transition from the Romantic period to the 20th Century

French String Quartets

French chamber music flowered at the end of the 19th century when the National Music Society was founded and composers were encouraged to write orchestral and chamber works. Apart from d’Indy, each of the composers featured in this package only composed one singular string quartet.

Franck’s highly emotional string quartet, composed in 1889/90, makes use of the cyclic form that he developed to unify the piece by using the same musical motif in different movements.

Also included are string quartets by two of Franck’s talented students, Chausson and d’Indy. D’Indy regarded the string quartet as a genre that cannot be successfully approached until a composer has reached maturity. Only at the age of 40 did he compose his first string quartet.

Debussy’s string quartet ranks among the major works of the string quartet repertoire. Written in 1893, its delicate structure, subtle harmonies and beautiful melodies still delight performers and audiences alike. 

Fauré composed his string quartet at the end of his life as he probably did not dare to approach this genre earlier. He wrote to his wife: “I've started a quartet for strings, without piano. This is a genre made particularly famous by Beethoven, so that anyone who is not Beethoven is scared stiff of it!“

Ravel dedicated his string quartet to his teacher Fauré. It was composed in 1902-03 and remains among the most popular string quartets of this period until today.

20th Century

Part 1 - British String Quartets

From his earliest compositional drafts through to his final works Alwyn was drawn to the string quartet that he described as the “most intimate of mediums”.

Chamber music for strings is a major part of Bridge’s compositions. He developed a very personal style that shows influences by Alban Berg, while his harmonies and melodies still contain English elements.

Britten studied with Bridge, who became his first mentor and highly influenced his development. String quartet writing was an important part of Britten’s career from his joyful Simple Symphony for string quartet that contains melodies written when he was only nine years old to his last major work, the third string quartet that includes references to other composers, including a tribute to his friend Shostakovich.

Bax is mostly known for his orchestral music, but he also composed some delightful string quartets. His first – dedicated to Elgar – was composed in a Romantic mood, while the following two are harmonically and rhythmically more daring.

Elgar completed his single string quartet on Christmas Eve 1918. Composed in a depressive mood during World War I, it offsets sombre elements with incredibly beautiful melodies.

Besides, some less well known masterpieces by Arnold, Bliss, Ireland and Rawsthrone, two string quartets by Vaughan Williams and three by Tippett, can also be discovered in this package. 

Part 2 - Polish & Russian String Quartets

Shostakovich’s 15 string quartets have taken their rightful place as a major part of 20th century chamber music repertoire. Often said to illustrate his very personal responses to the political difficulties of his time, more importantly they reflect the different stages of Shostakovich’s development as a Soviet composer who would achieve world-wide renown.

Prokofiev wrote about his first string quartet: "Before starting work on the String Quartet No 1 in B minor, Opus 50, I studied Beethoven's quartets. Perhaps this explains the somewhat 'classical' idiom of the first movement of my quartet." After its premiere in Moscow 1931 the composer Nikolay Miaskovsky praised the work for its “true profundity in the sweeping melodic line and intensity of the finale”.

Polish composer Krzysztof Meyer was fascinated by chamber music from his childhood. “When I was a little boy,” he recalled, “I had a chance to listen to chamber music concerts that were regularly organised at my home. Probably these first impressions fundamentally shaped my interests and principles…My musical homeland is the chamber music of the Viennese Classic, extended by the most splendid of twentieth-century musical worlds—Bartók’s”.

Expressive string quartets by Russian composers Stravinsky and Grechaninov and Polish composer Szymanowski complete this powerful package.

*Special offer available from January 6 to February 2, 2010 only

STRING QUARTETS PART II (available on February 2010)


Part 1 Boccherini & Rarities

Part 2 Beethoven


Russian String Quartets

Transition from the Romantic period to the 20th Century

Scandinavian, North American & Australian String Quartets

20th Century

Part 1 Czech, Hungarian, Austrian & Italian String Quartets

Part 2 North American String Quartets

Part 3 - South American String Quartets



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