String Quartet No.1 in d minor, Op.9
Zygmunt Noskowski(1846-1909) was born in Warsaw and was originally trained at the Warsaw Conservatory studying violin and composition. A scholarship enabled him to travel to Berlin where between 1864 and 1867, he studied with Friedrich Kiel, one of Europe’s leading teachers of composition. After holding several positions abroad, Noskowski returned to Warsaw in 1880 where he remained for the rest of his life. He worked not only as a composer, but also became a famous teacher, a prominent conductor and a journalist. He was one of the most important figures in Polish music during the late 19th century and the first decade of the 20th. He taught virtually of all the important Polish composers of the next generation, and is considered today to be the first Polish symphonic composer. He served as head of the Warsaw Music Society from 1880 to 1902 and was considered Poland’s leading composer during the last decade of his life.
Noskowski’s First String Quartet dates from around 1880. It is an interesting work combining not only the main stream elements of Central European music of the time but also using Polish folk music. The opening Allegro con brio begins quite unusually with a series of 8 crashing chords which herald a dramatic theme passed from voice to voice. The reoccurrence of these chords brings forth the more lyrical second subject. The lovely second movement, Allegretto moderato, his subtitled Intermezzo and very definitely recalls those of Mendelssohn. The trio section is a jovial interlude to the darker intermezzo. A gentle and very romantic Adagio non troppo serves as the third movement. The finale, Allegretto quasi oberek, is based on one of Poland's five national dances--the Oberek, a fast paced dance which much spinning of the dancers. Once can clearly hear it in Noskowski's clever treatment.
There are far and few Polish string quartets from the 19th century and this is certainly a welcome addition.