George Chadwick

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String Quartet No.5 in d minor

String Quartet No.5 in d minor was to be Chadwick’s last string quartet and his final large scale chamber work.  It was finished at the end of 1898 and was dedicated to the then well-known Adamowski Quartet of Boston. It met with much approval and was performed by American Quartets for the next 25 years or so with some regularity. Listeners will immediately recognize what sound like American folk tunes and, because of the time at which the quartet was composed, perhaps think it is derivative of Dvorak, who was then in America and who had recently composed his "American" string quartet. However, this is not the case. First, Dvorak never claimed the tunes used in his "American" Quartet were Negro spirituals or otherwise American, and, upon his return to Prague, flatly stated that the melodies were Czech, not American. In the 1960's, Dr. Jaromil Burghauser, the famous Dvorak scholar, substantiated this, actually finding the Bohemian folk tunes upon which Dvorak's melodies were based. So, ironically, Dvorak's "American" Quartet is not American at all. However, Chadwick had been using and or inventing American themes in his works since the 1870s. His Fourth and Fifth quartets continued this practice and gave them pride of place. Hence, it is fair to regard Chadwick's last two quartets as the real American string quartets.


George Chadwick, (1854-1931), for long known as the Dean of American Composers,  received his first music lessons from his brother. Soon he advanced so quickly he was serving as organist for the local church. Eventually, Chadwick found his way to the famous Leipzig Conservatory where in 1877 he studied with Carl Reinecke and Salomon Jadassohn. Never regarded as an extraordinary talent, soon after entering the Conservatory, his progress and talent in composition astounded his teachers and everyone else. Several of his early works, written while there, won prizes and his name spread as far away as England. After graduating, he chose to further his studies by taking lessons privately with Joseph Rheinberger in Munich.  He returned to Boston in 1880 and began a long career as a composer, conductor and teacher. Many important late 19th and early 20th century American composers were to study with him, including William Grant Still, Horatio Parker, Frederick Shepherd Converse and Arthur Farwell. Chadwick served as director of the New England Conservatory for 33 years.


In the opening movement of the Fifth Quartet, Allegro moderato, Chadwick intentionally invented American-sounding themes which he termed, "soil music". By this he meant, folk tunes from rural areas. The opening is subdued but builds to a powerful climax. This is followed by the entrance of a more lyrical second theme which sounds like a traditional American folk melody because it is, in part, pentatonic. A slow movement, Andantino, follows. It is peaceful and reflective but it, too, gradually builds to a number of impressive climaxes. Particularly noteworthy is the prominent recitative role the cello is given later in the movement. The Leggiero e presto which comes next is a quick-paced scherzo, full of vigor and energy. The finale, Allegro vivace, consists of the interplay between the first theme, a muscular processional, and the second, a jaunty New England tune. There is even a fugue before the exciting coda (where our sound-bite starts).


This quartet definitely deserves to be heard in concert. American performing ensembles owe it to themselves to put this work into their repertoires. Amateurs will also get a lot of pleasure from it. 


The first and only published edition, out of print for the better part of a century, was made from a professional copyist's rendering and not type set. Ours is a reprint of it, however, we have corrected several errors which appeared in that edition.

Parts: $24.95 




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