String Quartet No.3 in a minor, Op.29
The respected Swiss music scholar Walter Labhart described Paul Juon's String Quartet No.3 as "A mature work with a strong personality. It is extraordinarily rich in its pregnant themes, contrapuntal subtlety and vital rhythms"
Paul Juon (1872-1940) was the son of Swiss parents who emigrated to Moscow where he was born. Educated at the Moscow German High School, he entered the Moscow Conservatory where he studied violin with Jan Hrimaly and composition with Anton Arensky and Sergei Taneyev. After graduating, he went to Berlin for further composition instruction from Woldemar Bargiel . In 1906, after holding various posts in Russia, Juon was invited by Joseph Joachim, head of the prestigious Berlin Hochschule für Musik, to be a Professor of Composition. It was a post he held until 1934 at which time he moved to Switzerland, where lived for the rest of his life. He is often called the link between Tchaikovsky and Stravinsky. In his early music, one can hear the influence of his Russian homeland and schooling. His second period is more cosmopolitan and is in tune with the contemporary Central European trends of the early 20th century. Ultimately, it is hard to characterize his music as Russian or German, Romantic, Modern or Folkloric, because one can find all of these elements in his music. Juon was widely regarded as an important composer and his works were given frequent performance throughout Europe during his lifetime. Chamber music plays a large part of his total output which numbers more than 100 works.
The String Quartet No.3 from 1905. Not as massive as his First Quartet, it is still a big work. The opening measures of the first movement, Allegro molto, begin in a somewhat questioning fashion before the theme is properly stated. Energetic and attractive, the movement is an example of how is music is an amalgam of Russian and Germanic tendencies. The second movement Lento assai, is the most extraordinary of the work. It begins with a cello solo and the mood remains declamatory, even when the others join in. The whole is in the form of a polyphonic recitative. The third movement, Moderato, opens with an oriental sounding melody, of which the Russians were fond of using. At first slow, it gradually picks up speed and is clearly an descendant of the Russian National School. Further on, a Slavic second theme is released. The finale begins with a lengthy Lento assai introduction which is taken from the second movement. The first theme to the main part of the movement, Vivace non troppo, is clearly a Slavic folk dance.
This is a work of great originality, which does not sound like anyone else. Certainly well worth playing both in concert and at home. Unavailable for many years now, we are pleased to present it once again.