String Quartet in B flat Major, Op.13
Anton Hegner (1861-1915) was born in Copenhagen. He began his studies as a violinist but soon switched to the cello. He studied that instrument and composition at the Royal Danish Conservatory. In Denmark, he enjoyed a career as a soloist, but in 1893 moved to New York at the invitation of Walter Damrosch who offered him the principal cello chair of the New York Philharmonic. He also served as cellist of the famous Brodsky String Quartet for many years and continued to perform both in Europe and America. In addition he was a respected composer and many of his works were often performed during his lifetime.
He is said to have written five string quartets, although the Op.13 appears to be the only one to have survived. It was published in 1905, but composed around 1890. In four movements, the thematic material of the quartet is quite appealing but it is the Hegner's attraction to unusual rhythmic material which makes this quartet quite interesting and distinctive. This is particularly so in the first three movements. The quartet opens with a dramatic Andante sostenuto introduction which leads to the main section Allegro moderato with its unusual and catchy drumbeat rhythm, a rhythm which from measure to measure though similar is never quite the same and is constantly undergoing a morphic change. Over the drumbeat rhythm we hear the soaring melody, heroic melody first in the violin and then the viola. The second movement, Allegro moderato, is a slinky intermezzo, muted in the upper three voices. As the movement is developed, the syncopated rhythm creates some unusual jolts. A fast moving, pounding Scherzo with a lovely, lyrical trio section in which the cello is given the lead, comes next. But Hegner throws in some rhytmic surprises even in the trio. The finale, a playful and teasing Rondo, concludes the quartet.
This is an unusual and quite appealing work. Hegner was an accomplished composer, who as a long-time quartet player himself, writes for each of the instruments expertly. And each is given a grateful part to play. Concisely constructed, there is no filler here and not a note too many. Out of print for the better part of a century, we are pleased to make it available once again.