String Quartet No.1 in c minor, Op.45
"The string quartets of the multi-talented Russian composer Cesar Cui have every right to be called noteworthy. The First Quartet appeared in 1893. The highly rhythmic first theme as well as the warm and lyrical second subject to the first movement, Allegro risoluto, are quite Russian in character. Next comes a fleet and piquant Allegro non troppo, which serves as a scherzo. The substantial, slow movement, Andantino, with a deeply felt middle section follows. The very successful finale, Allegro non troppo, sports catch rhythmic main theme and a very Russian second subject"---the famous chamber music critic Wilhelm Altmann, writing in his Handbook for String Quartet Players.
CÚsar Cui (1835-1918) was born in the then Russian (now Lithuanian) city of Vilnius also known as Vilna. His father was French, his mother Lithuanian. When he was 16, his parents sent him to St. Petersburg to take a degree in engineering. Subsequently, he began a career as a military engineer and eventually became an expert on military fortifications. His expertise was such that he ended his career as a general and for many years was a professor of this subject, writing several important works. Nonetheless, Cui today is only known as a composer. As a boy, he was given piano lessons and studied with the then prominent Polish composer Stanislaw Moniuszko before leaving for St. Petersburg. Like his better known contemporary, Alexander Borodin who was a chemist, Cui despite pursuing an active military and academic career, nonetheless, composed throughout his life and was actually a rather prolific composer. In addition to this, he was a prominent music critic. As a critic his goal was to promote the music of contemporary Russian composers, especially the works of the composers who eventually became known as The Mighty Five. (Rimsky Korsakov, Borodin, Cui, Balakiev and Mussorgsky) Cui concentrated his efforts on opera and vocal works and did not write symphonies, although he did write a few orchestral works. He did not ignore chamber music, writing three string quartets. Outside Russia, his reputation rests almost entirely on a short, evocative work he wrote for violin and piano, Orientale.
This is a wonderful quartet from the Russian Romantic period. Why it has not become part of the repertoire is a mystery to us. Instead, it has virtually disappeared and has been out of print since it was released. As such we are very pleased to recommend it to professionals and amateurs alike.
Parts & Score: $33.95