String Quartet No.1 in G Major, Op.24 No.1
Carl Loewe, (1796-1869) was born in the German town of Löbejün near the city of Halle. He studied composition and voice with Daniel Türk and Johann Reichardt. He enjoyed a career as a baritone soloist, composer and as long-time music director of the German city of Stettin (since 1945 Sczezin in Poland). Much admired by Wagner and Mendelssohn, he was renowned for his over 400 art songs and ballads and was often called the 'Schubert of the North'. It is for his vocal works that he is remembered, but he did write instrumental music including symphonies, concertos, a piano trio praised by Schumann and four string quartets.
String Quartet No.1 in G Major is a first of a set of three which are relatively early works dating from 1821. It seems strange that they disappeared since they are among the most interesting from this particular period. Of interest is that Loewe prefers to use quite short motifs, often without development with the result that his movements sound like sound collages in the way the combine and present the various themes within. The opening bars to the first movement, Allegro, begin chorale like fashion but are quickly interrupted by a dramatic interlude, but before it can get going, we are returned to the uplifting choral set chords. Then a playful motif dominated by its rhythm comes to the fore. More than elsewhere this collage effect is on display as the themes are quickly juxtaposed. In the second movement, Adagio, we have an instrumental version of the kind of vocal ballads for which Loewe was famous. The themes are vocal in quality, beautiful and highly romantic. Next comes a scherzo, Presto, which begins with a rumbling subject in the cello's lowest register which is taken up one by one by the others. Slowly the music rises in pitch and becomes a kind of fugue. The whirling trio section provides a fine contrast. The first subject finale, Allegro, is dominated by a kind of drum-like rhythm and its unusual dynamics. A raucous second theme brings considerable excitement with it.
This is a very interesting work, especially in its use of rhythm and combination of thematic material, with quite good part-writing. We think it makes a valuable edition to the repertoire from the early romantic era.