String Quartet No.2 in A Major
Donizetti (1797-1848) was born in Bergamo, Italy of humble origins. His father was an assistant at the village pawnshop. In 1806, at the age of 9, he was able to attend a charitable school and there met the then famous composer, Simone Mayr, who became his mentor and lifelong friend. Donizetti is well-known, of course, as a composer for the opera. However, many will be surprised to learn that he did write a fair amount of chamber music, including 18 string quartets, some string quintets, piano trios, and an octet for winds and strings along with several other instrumental works.
Donizetti's 2nd string quartet is an early work which dates from 1818, while the composer was still studying with Mayr. The opening movement, Allegro assai, is characterized a upwardly skyrocketing and downward plunging scale passages which give the music an almost frantic quality. In between are sandwiched more relaxed and lyrical episodes. The main theme of the lovely second movement, Largo, is simple and naive melody but very appealing. The quiet and peaceful music is only briefly interrupted by a stormy, operatic interlude in the middle. In the Minuetto which follows is not really a minuet at all but a rincontro, beloved of the early classical school of Mannheim composers such as F.X. Richter, with whose music Mayr must have been familiar. The contrasting middle section, however, is from the early romantic. The finale, Allegretto, begins in a mysterious vein. The somewhat exotic main theme is played over the bagpipe sounding double-stops in the cello. This is followed by several contrasting, quicker sections.
While no great masterpiece, this charming work nonetheless is a worthwhile representative of the early Italian romantic movement.