String Quartet No.1 in a minor, Op.27
Alexandre BoŽly (1785-1858) was clearly an extraordinary man who truly marched to his own drum beat. Such independence of thought and taste led to his losing a prestigious position as an organist in one of France's leading churches for championing the music of Bach. Today, BoŽly is remembered as one of France's greatest organists from the first half of the 19th century. He was born at Versailles into a family of musicians. He excelled on the organ and piano and most of his compositions are for these instruments. However, he did write five string trios and four string quartets, which are among his most interesting works.
BoŽly's four string quartets Op. 27, 28, 29 and 30 were published in 1859, a year after his death. Despite the fact that their publication was contemporary with that of the first quartets by Theodore Gouvy, Eduard Lalo, and Adolphe Blanc, they were actually composed between 1824 and 1827. This fact, in and of itself, led to them being instantly ignored because the publisher did not make it clear that the quartets had actually been composed some 35 years before. Hence they were regarded as outmoded or at best a historical curiosity.
In his string trios, BoŽly took Beethovenís Op.9 trios and his Op.18 quartets as his models and indeed his own trios sound almost as if they had been written by Beethoven, especially since many of the themes seem borrowed from him. However, by the time he came to write quartets, while still looking to Haydn and Beethoven as his models, his works are far more original sounding although they on occasion do vaguely sound like those masters. String Quartet No.1 begins with a thrusting Allegro followed by a lovely lyrical subject. Next comes a Beethovenian romantic Andante. This is followed by a lively Scherzo. The finale, a substantial Rondo, recalls late Haydn.
Out of print for more than a century, this is a historically important and very worthwhile work, with good part writing for all, and presenting no technical difficulties. It should be of interest ot professionals looking for an alternative to late Haydn or early Beethoven and is sure to give pleasure to amateurs as well.