Moscow String Quartet
Over the past twenty years the Moscow String Quartet has become one of the most famous musical ensembles to emerge from Russia. All four members of the quartet are graduates (with honors) of the two leading conservatories in Moscow, the Moscow Conservatory and the Gnessin Music Institute, and were students of the great masters of the Russian string technique. The quartet received their post-graduate training under the supervision of professor Valentin Berlinsky, member of the internationally respected Borodin String Quartet.
An active concert and competition schedule found the Moscow String Quartet performing in the most venerable concert halls of Russia, Belgium, Finland, Luxembourg, Holland, Germany, France, England, Spain and the United States. Their many accomplishments in international competitions include winning the Leo Winer International Quartet Competition (Budapest, Hungary), and the Grand Prix award at the International Quartet Competition in Evian, France, where the quartet received two grand prizes for their performances in both classical and contemporary music.
The Quartet’s festival appearances have included the prestigious Stratford-upon-Avon Music Festival, City of London Music Festival, Pablo Casals Festival, Paris Music Festival, Holland Music Festival, West Berlin Music Festival, Summer Music Festival (Brussels), Kuhmo Music Festival (Finland), and Ottawa International Chamber Music Festival (Canada). Festival appearances in the United States include Flagstaff Music Festival, Newport Music Festival and Grand Teton Music Festival.
Alexander Borodin - String Quartet No. 2 in D Major
Borodin's second quartet was composed in a short period of time— over the course of the summer of 1881, which he spent in the country at Zhitovo. He was particularly keen to finish the composition on August 10, the date on which, 20 years ago, he had expressed his feelings to his wife. The quartet is dedicated to her. This music full of tender and passionate emotion reflects the memories of the short time Borodin spent in Heidelberg in 1877, the summer he met his wife.
This composition illustrates the lyrical side of Borodin very vividly. Instead of sharp contrasts and juxtapositions, the first three sections are dominated by a single lyrical image. Particularly entrancing is the third movement of the quartet—the nocturne. From its charming, softly-whispering first theme and the underlying feeling of the quiet of nighttime, it swells into an impassioned and inspired song about deep, enduring human love.
The first performance of this quartet occurred in the winter of 1882, at a quartet soiree organized by the Russian Musical Society in St. Petersburg. At that time, it was performed directly from the manuscript. Only years later, after its publication (which was unfortunately posthumous) did the quartet gain enormous popularity.
Igor Stravisnky - Three Pieces for String Quartet (1914)
Stravinsky wrote in many of the standard forms; however, he never wrote a large-scale string quartet. He made his contribution to the genre in 1914, with his Three Pieces for String Quartet, originally called Grotesques, individually titled 'Dances', 'Excentrique' and 'Cantique'. Stravinsky removed these titles before publication, then restored them when arranging the pieces as the first three of his Four Studies for orchestra. His Three Pieces for String Quartet were premiered in November of 1915.
The first piece is a Russian dance. The second is based on the antics of the clown Little Tich and is somewhat reminiscent of a passage in Petrushka, as the composer himself recognized. The final piece is inspired by Russian liturgical chant. The musical line evokes the image of one choir responding to another.
Piotr Tchaikovsky - String Quartet No. 2 in F Major, Op. 22
Composed three years after Quartet No.1, Quartet No.2 in F Major Op. 22 has features typical of all Tchaikovsky’s instrumental work in the first half of the seventies. The writing of Quartet No.2 was completed in a very short period-between December 1873 and January 1874. As he wrote to his brother M. I. Tchaikovsky: "I regard it my best composition; none of my pieces have taken shape so easily and simply. I composed practically at one go." In another letter to M. I. Tchaikovsky the composer complained of Laroche who, in a review entitled "The General Features of Tchaikovsky's Work", called the first and the second movements of the Quartet "complicated and refined, with no warmth or real charm": "If I have in my life composed something really heartfelt and coming out straight from within," the composer wrote, "it is the first movement of this Quartet."
In one of his later letters, Tchaikovsky called Quartet No.2, alongside with the opera Eugene Onegin, one of his favorite compositions.
The first performance of Quartet No.2 was held at Nikolai Rubinstein’s musical soiree at the end of January, 1874. According to N. D. Kashkin's memoirs, the Quartet was performed by F. Laub, I. Hřimaly, U. Herber and V. Fitzenhagen. Anton Rubinstein became the only listener to reject it. Public performances of the Quartet No.2 took place on March 10, in Moscow, and October 24, 1874 in St. Petersburg. The Quartet was a great success on both occasions, receiving good press. Quartet No.2 later became very popular, and was performed many times by various ensembles in the composer’s lifetime.