Jan Brandts Buys
Sicilian Serenade for String Quartet, Op.28
Writing in his Handbook for String Quartet Players, the famous critic Wilhelm Altmann has this to say about Jan Brandts-Buys Sicilian Serenade:
“I warmly recommend Brandts-Buys’ Sicilian Serenade which appeared in 1917 for the concert hall where it will certainly be quite effective, especially as the last work on the program. Further to recommend it is the fact that it is not difficult to play presenting no unusual technical problems. He subtitled it ‘Some cheerful music for unhappy musicians’. Some Sicilian folk tunes can be found in the five concise, appealing movements, this is by no means overdone and at times little of Sicily is to be heard. The opening Allegro appassionato has a certain earthiness or rustic quality to it. Next comes a sweet Lento ma non troppo in the form of a nocturne full of yearning. The third movement, a Presto, is fetching and has an interesting section in which it sounds as if a mandolin had joined the ensemble. The following Comodo ma burlesco is filled with good spirits and the elegant finale, Grazioso concludes this excellent work.”
Jan Brandts Buys (1868-1939) came from a long line of professional musicians. His father was an organist in the town of Zutphen in the Netherlands where Jan was born. He studied at the Raff Conservatory in Frankfurt and in 1893 settled in Vienna where he got to know Brahms, who along with Edvard Grieg, praised his early works. His piano concerto won an important international prize and such famous artists as Lilli Lehmann often included his songs on the same program with those of Schubert. He was best known for his comic operas such as The Tailors of Schonau and The Man in the Moon, which gained considerable international acclaim. But he did not ignore chamber music, penning several works various ensembles.