String Quartet No.1 in a minor, Op.7
Eugen d'Albert's String Quartet No.1 created a sensation when it first premiered. "Earlier great pianists such as Liszt and Rubinstein only gained their laurels as composers in their maturity, d'Albert has done it in his youth." So wrote the famous Viennese critic, Eduard Hanslick who was astounded at the maturity of the young man's compositions, including his two string quartets.
Eugen d'Albert (1864-1932), who was one of the great piano virtuosi of his generation, was born in Glasgow to an English mother and a French father. After beginning piano lessons with his father, he eventually won a scholarship to the Royal College of Music in London where he studied with Arthur Sullivan among others. While there, he was heard by the famous conductor Hans Richter who sent him to see Liszt in Vienna. In Vienna, d'Albert met Brahms who was very impressed by his playing. So was Liszt, who took him on as a student and came to call him Albertus Magnus as a tribute to his talent. After completing his studies with Liszt, D’Albert embarked on a successful concert career which included a series of legendary concerts in which he, under the baton of Brahms, interpreted the latter’s two piano concertos. Although he grew up in England, d'Albert felt himself drawn to Germany and Austria and began to use the German form of his first name, eventually settling in Germany.
While the bulk of his compositions were either for piano or the opera, D’Albert did write two highly thought of string quartets. String Quartet No.1 dates from 1887 and was written shortly after the death of his teacher and friend Liszt. The opening movement, Leidenschaftlich bewegt (Passionately agitated) accurately describes the mood of the main theme. The writing exhibits considerable chromaticism and has episodes of Lisztian tonality more advanced than what one finds in Brahms. A surprising fugue brings the movement to close. The big second movement, Langsam mit Ausdruck (slow with expression) is lyrically elegiac and contains very effective writing. Then comes a very fine and original-sounding scherzo, Mäßig Bewegt (moderate tempo). It is a kind of quick waltz. The trio section is faster yet. The finale, In maßiger, ruhiger Bewegung-Thema mit Variationen (Moderate & peaceful, theme & variations) is the longest of the four movements and begins with a charming theme. Among the many variations, some are particularly interesting and adventurous tonally. (our sound-bite presents just a few)
Here is first class a quartet which impressed the likes of Brahms, Hanslick, Altmann and many others and yet, inexplicably, has fallen into obscurity. Those who make its acquaintance, be they professional or amateur, will be glad that they have.
Parts & Score: $33.95