String Quartet No.2 in c minor, Op.99
“This is a powerful and very substantial work. It is also autobiographical program music in the tradition of Smetana’s From My Life. Kienzl inscribed the top of the quartet with words expressing the pain he felt over his losses. The short but slow introduction of the big opening Adagio-Allegro energico immediately makes it clear that something like a death has occurred. Tension then builds as an angry Allegro is called forth. Though the tempo is quick, there is a strange lugubrious feel to it. One hears cries of anguish, moments of hope, followed by moments of despair. The coda is particularly melodramatic. The lovely second movement, Adagio, though not shot through with the pain of the first movement, nonetheless, has a sad and mournful quality. It brings to mind images of days past and things of beauty which have perished. An effective Scherzo follows this. It is certainly not joyful music, but neither is it sad. It has a mild, playful quality, but one with a cutting edge somewhere in the background. Above the finale, Moderato, Allegro commodo e leggiero, Kienzl inscribed words of tribute to Vienna, the City of Mirth and Brilliance. Here, the music is at its gayest, full of Viennese color and dance rhythms. This is a first rate quartet, mature with the ripeness of human experience.”---The Chamber Music Journal
Kienzl composed his second quartet in 1919 just after the conclusion of World War I. He wrote “In this Quartet I tried to sum up my moods into which I had been plunged by my departure from Graz, city of graces, and my arrival in Vienna which had collapsed and was in dire need as a consequence of the World War. In the verses I appended to the beginning of my score my feelings:
The City of Graces (Graz) I left and moved to Vienna
The City of Music and Joy.
There I found War’s bitter consequences-dire need and bitter sorrow.
I suffered with my fellow Viennese and lived with a heavy heart.
But friendship which I found, along with my own internal strength, succeeded
In banishing sorrow from my weary soul
Wilhelm Kienzl (1857-1941) was born in the small, picturesque upper Austrian town of Waizenkirchen. His family moved to the Styrian capital of Graz not long after. It was there that he began studies on the piano and later in composition. Subsequently he studied at the Prague, Leipzig and Vienna Conservatories. Kienzl was much influenced by Wagner, and Opera became his first love. Despite this fact, he did not ignore chamber music. He wrote three string quartets and a piano trio
This is a work which should have entered the repertoire. Any quartet which presents it in concert is sure to triumph. Yet, the work is well within the ability of amateur players who should not miss the chance to play it. Long out of print, we are very pleased to make it available.