String Quartet No.3 in E flat Major, Op.91
Cui was almost 80 when he composed his final string quartet, No.3 in D Major. Overall, the work is bright and its melodies are genial and ingratiating. The opening movement has a lengthy Andante introduction which leads to an upbeat, charming Allegro. The second movement, Allegro non troppo, is a playful scherzo full of good spirits. The trio section toys with going into the minor but returns to the major sunny skies. Next comes an attractive Andantino, which begins in a fashion which reminds one of the traditional Shepherd’s Lament, but the music is only a little bit sad. The finale, Allegro, is a rustic peasant’s dance joyful and full of forward motion, a more lyrical second section provides excellent contrast.
César 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.
Unavailable for many years, amateurs will especially appreciate this quartet with its lovely melodies and the ease with which it can be played, as it offers no technical difficulties.
Parts & Score: $33.95