String Quartet in A Major, Op.17
"It’s a pity that Stephan Krehl's String Quartet in A Major is so little known. I cannot recommend it strongly enough both for concert performance and to amateur players.” The famous chamber music expert and critic Wilhelm Altmann, writing in his Handbook for String Quartet Players.
Stephan Krehl (1864-1924) was born in Leipzig. He first studied painting then art history and finally piano and composition with the famous teacher Johann Rischbieter, whose nickname was "counterpoint incarnate", which in no small part accounts for the excellence of his compostional technique. After completing his studies, he taught composition at the conservatories in Karlsruhe and Leipzig. Krehl's music was of the language of the late romantics. He rejected the new directions that Bartok and Schoenberg were taking and his music, like that of so many other fine composers, disappeared from the concert stage after the First World War, when new tastes rejected romanticism and all but the most famous romantic composers such as Brahms.
The String Quartet in A Major, Op.17 dates from 1899 and was dedicated to the Meininger String Quartet, then one of the best known quartets in Europe. The opening movement Allegro begins in unison, with all four players bringing forth a genial, warm subject. The second theme is more jolly and energetic. The second movement. Lento, has for its main theme a doleful melody first brought forth by the cello. All are muted and this creates an air of mystery and quietude . Eventually the music rises to a dramatic climax full of passion. Next comes a lively Vivace, which serves as a sort of updated Mendelssohnian scherzo. In the big Moderato finale, once again, the cello brings forth the initial theme, a serious, dignified melody. As each voice enters tension rises.
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