Recorded on 12/01/2010, uploaded on 04/20/2011
Musician's or Publisher's Notes
Tchaikovsky was a professor at the Moscow Conservatory when he composed his first string quartet in 1871. Barely making a living from his duties at the Conservatory, Tchaikovsky managed to put together a concert of his own music which included songs, piano pieces, and the String Quartet No. 1 in D major, written especially for the occasion. Since then the quartet has become the audience-favorite among Tchaikovsky’s three essays in the genre.
The first movement, Moderato e semplice, is crafted as a tradition sonata and is one his finer examples of the form, featuring an expansive and thrilling development section. Juxtaposing two lyrical themes in a relaxed compound meter, the movement abounds in the tunefulness and emotive power one would expect to find in the composer’s orchestral music. Following the lyrical first movement is the beautiful Andante cantabile in B-flat major. An intensely emotional movement, it is believed the movement’s main tune is a folksong Tchaikovsky heard whistled by a house painter in Kamenka. The movement’s second theme, one the other hand, is wholly original, yet maintains the folk-like character, and is heard over a chromatic bass in the cello. Even in this beloved quartet, the Andante has garnered its own fame. It is often heard in an arrangement for string orchestra as well as many other instrumental combinations.
The Scherzo third movement (Allegro non tanto e con fuoco) begins forcefully in D minor but nonetheless skips to a lively dance-like rhythm. The Trio section, returning to the key of the Andante, presents a playful tune over impish halfstep oscillations in the cello. Lastly, the Allegro guisto finale starts off with a lighthearted and joyous tune in D major answered by a lyrical second subject that appears first in the viola. Another sonata form, the movement drives through an energetic development to a restatement of its two themes, the latter of which returns unexpectedly in the tonic minor. Quickening into an Allegro vivace, Tchaikovsky ends the quartet in a conclusive flurry of notes and triumphal tonic chords. Joseph DuBose
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