String Quartet in d minor, Op.23
"Besides his career as a soloist and teacher, Fitzenhagen was also an active string quartet player serving for many years as the cellist of the Moscow Conservatory String Quartet. His Op.23 Quartet dates from the mid 1870’s. The work opens with a pensive Adagio introduction. Suddenly, the cello interrupts affairs with a plunging, chromatic passage which leads to an agitated Allegro moderato. The lovely second movement, Andante, is played muted. The main subject could well be a legend. The beautiful thematic material is highly romantic. Next comes an Allegro which serves as a scherzo. After a short march-like introduction, the main section begins. In mood, it is closer to an intermezzo than a scherzo with its pizzicato and cross-rhythms. The finale, begins with a slow, somewhat sad, Russian-sounding Larghetto introduction. However, however this is dispelled by the bright main section, Allegro energico, which, full of good spirits, follows. This is a really fine mid-romantic era quartet which not only sounds good in performance but is not particularly difficult to play. The part-writing, as one might expect from an experienced string player, is first rate throughout. It is hard to understand how such a good work has escaped notice."---The Chamber Music Journal
Wilhelm Fitzenhagen (1848-1890) was born in the German town of Seesen, where his father was serving as music director. After studying with his father, he continued his studies with Theodor Müller and Friedrich Grützmacher, at the time the most famous cello teacher in Germany. On Grützmacher’s recommendation, he obtained a position of the Royal Saxon Hofkapelle and also pursued a solo career which brought him to the attention of both Franz Liszt and Nikolai Rubinstein founder of the Moscow Conservatory and, brother of the famous pianist Anton. Liszt wanted to engage Fitzenhagen as solo cellist of the grand-ducal orchestra in Weimar, where he was serving as music director, while Nikolai Rubinstein offered him a professorship at the Moscow Conservatory. He accepted Rubinstein's offer and became one of Russia's most important cello teachers and enjoyed an important solo career, taking part in the premiere of the Rococo Variations by Tchaikovsky as well as the premiere of his string quartets and piano trio. Fitzenhagen wrote several cello concertos and works for cello and piano which entered the 19th century repertoire as recital pieces and encores. He also composed a string quartet.
This excellent Quartet has been unavailable and out of print for more than a century. We are pleased to make it available once again and recommend it to both professionals and amateurs alike.