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Development of the String Quartet

The development of the string quartet did not take place without controversy. In the nineteenth century, a dispute erupted as to the direction the string quartet should take, a dispute bound with different ideas about performance, the relationship of performance to composition, and the way certain instruments should be used in the quartet as in other types of composition. Composer and conductor Louis Spohr advocated virtuoso violin play in the quartet, while composers such as Schumann and Mendelssohn saw the string quartet not as a collection of pieces with differing performance requirements but as a cohesive whole, with the unity of the four instruments emphasized over any one instrument emerging even for only one movement or more.

The string quarter is a composition for four solo string instruments, usually two violins, viola, and cello. The genre originated in various late Baroque compositions but was not firmly established until the time of Haydn, and with Haydn's op. 9 (176970), a fourmovement scheme was established, along with a generally welldistributed fourpart texture. Haydn continued to develop the form, and in his op. 33 quartets (1781), he introduced the scherzo into the genre and also achieved a new clarity of structure and balance of texture (though brilliant writing for the first violin always remained part of his style). A new experimentalism appears in his op. 76, which includes features anticipating Beethoven. No contemporary except Mozart reached the level sustained by Haydn in the medium, though many other composers, including Vanhal, Boccherini, and Ordonez, made quartet writing a major preoccupation. The quartets of Mozart were influenced by the Milanese style of G.B. Sammartini, which had their "singing allegros" dominated by the first violin. It was not until he wrote the set dedicated to Haydn (17825) that Mozart attained a fully integrated quartet style. In the meantime, Italian composers ...

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Development of the String Quartet. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 20:41, February 23, 2017, from