Johann Benjamin Gross
String Quartet No.3 in f minor, Op.37
Today, the Prussian cellist and composer Johann Benjamin Gross (1809-1848) and his music are virtually unknown and his name no longer appears in the standard reference sources. However, during his lifetime, he was well-known and frequently performed with many of his famous contemporaries, including Mendelssohn, Schumann and his wife Clara. Born in the East Prussian town of Elbing, by the mid-1830's, he was already serving as solo cellist in Berlin and later in Leipzig. Subsequently, he served as cellist in the well-known Liphardt String Quartet of Dorpat. Ferdinand David was its leader. Gross finished his career as solo cellist in St. Petersburg where he died.
Most of his works were either for the cello or voice but he also wrote four string quartets. String Quartet No.3 in f minor, Op.37 was composed in 1843 and published the following year. The first movement is a very Mendelssohnian, Allegro di molto, complete with a dramatic recitative for the first violin, which recalls Mendelssohn's Op.13. The quartet begins with a short violin solo quickly interrupted by an almost violent eruption from the lower voices. Tension builds quickly and rises to a powerful and dramatic explosion. The second subject is yearning and more lyrical. The main theme of the relatively short second movement, Cavatina, is somewhat subdued and stately. The third movement, marked Alternativo, begins in canonic fashion and is a scherzo which at times seems Beethovian. The finale, Allegro con passione, opens with several explosive chords before the somewhat tragic, Mendelssohnian-tinged main theme is introduced. The music is propelled by a thrusting forward drive.
Here is an appealing and worthwhile work from the mid-romantic era which presents no great technical difficulties and which makes a welcome addition to the repertoire by an almost exact contemporary of Mendelssohn. We were fortunate to work from a set of parts to the 1844 first and only edition which were in very good condition. To it, we have added rehearsal letters. Please keep in mind, that paper this old, invariable shows some water marks etc which appear on the page as an occasional speck or fleck, but which in no way interferes with the parts being a perfectly serviceable performance edition.