String Quintet in F Major
For 2 Violins, 2 Violas & Cello
"If the only thing Bruckner had ever written for string instruments had been the slow movement to his string quintet, his reputation would have been secured for all time. The entire work is so admirable that it is hard to believe that its creator had little familiarity with string chamber music. Though true, it is hard to credit that Bruckner did not know Beethoven’s late string quartets at the time he wrote this work. Its harmonies are quite unique and characteristic of Bruckner’s love of harmonic seconds and half-tones. As a result, the intonation is at times quite difficult to get right but even amateurs need to overcome these so as to make the acquaintance of this magnificent work. The first movement, Gemäßig (moderato) entirely avoids the usual Allegro mood one expects to find in a first movement. The plastic main theme is full of yearning and developed at great length until the entrance of the lyrical second theme, which conveys almost unimaginable bliss. The second movement, Scherzo, is highly syncopated though here, as opposed to its appearance in his symphonies, it is gentler and has a melancholy, contemplative mood to it. The trio section is closely related to the old-style minuet though it is full of feeling. The aforementioned slow movement, Adagio, takes one directly to heaven. This is music of affirmation and there is no sense of resignation to an inevitable and unwished for fate. The tonal color is quite unique, especially when the cello falls silent. The main theme of the finale, Lebhaft bewegt, has a staccato motif over an organ-like underpinning. The slower delightful second theme is a real piece of Austrian folk music and the variations on it are very pleasing.”
This was the opinion of the esteemed chamber music critic Wilhelm Altmann, writing in his Chamber Music Handbook for String Players.
Although the idea of composing a string quintet was not Bruckner’s (It was the famous Viennese violinist Joseph Hellmesberger who suggested that Bruckner should consider writing such a composition), Bruckner was flattered by the idea and produced a magnificent work that is unique within the literature.