String Quartet No.4 in E Major
Cherubini's String Quartet No.4, completed in 1835 at the age of 75, is the first of three which have been referred to as his "Late Quartets". Although composed only a year after his Third Quartet, it represents a total change of style and approach to the string quartet form. The composer has become more interested in counterpoint and in extensively developing the possibilities of his theme which tend to be more austere than the operatic melodies which often occur in the earlier works. In many ways, these so called "Late Quartets" show Cherubini to be attempting the same sort of journey that Beethoven embarked upon in composing his own Late Quartets.
The big first movement, Allegro maestoso, is entirely dominated by its powerful main theme and its extensive development and contrapuntal treatment as well as its forward moving rhythms. The dark, brooding quality with which the second movement, Larghetto, begins brings Late Beethoven to mind. An Italienesque melody finally appears only to be dissected by rhythmic exploration. A powerful rhythmic phrase serves to introduce what is entitled, Scherzo, but it quickly dissipates into a rather quiet, unscherzo-like chorale. Again, there is an unmistakable similarity to Late Beethoven. The finale, Allegro assai, begins in the same austere fashion as the earlier movements, but soon the thematic material brightens, however, the treatment of the voices is extraordinarily independent. Our of nowhere, Cherubini, creates a serenade interlude which provides an amazing contrasting, highly rhythmic section within which it is sandwiched.
Luigi Cherubini ( 1760-1842) was born Florence. He studied at the conservatories in Bologna and Milan and remained in Italy until 1788 when he moved to Paris, where he lived for the rest of his life. He made his name as a composer of opera, but by 1805 Parisian tastes had changed and the heavy, serious operas that he, Gluck and others had been writing fell out of fashion. Cherubini then turned to religious and instrumental music. He served as director of the Paris Conservatory from 1822 until his death and was regarded as one of France's leading musicians. Beethoven considered Cherubini the greatest living dramatic composer, while Cherubini was perhaps the only important composer in France, who held Beethoven to be the greatest genius of the day. Perhaps no other contemporary composer studied Beethoven's Middle and Late Quartets as did Cherubini, who both admired and understood them.
This is an important work by an independent thinker which has been unjustly ignored. It belongs in the concert hall but should also attract serious minded amateur players. Either out of print or hard to obtain, we are pleased to reintroduce it.