Lorenzo Perosi

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String Quartet No.3 in G Major

Lorenzo Perosi (1872-1956) was born in the Piedmontese town of Tortona. He hailed from a long line of church musicians. His first lessons were from his father one of Italy's most prominent church musicians. Subsequently, he studied at the Milan Conservatory and immediately after became an ordained priest. By the age of 20, he had obtained world-wide fame as a composer of sacred music. He held a series of high musical posts within the church, culminating in his appointment as Maestro Perpetuo della Cappella Sistina, or Perpetual Director of the Sistine Choir in Rome, a position he held for nearly 50 years. His fame for his masses and other sacred music was such that few knew that he also composed instrumental music, including three string trios, sixteen string quartets, three string quintets, four piano quintets, and several sonatas and suites for various instruments. Perosi made no great effort to promote his chamber music and to have it performed and very few pieces were published perhaps because he did not feel it appropriate for a man of the cloth to write secular music or perhaps he felt it might detract from his reputation as a composer of sacred music. The net result was that it fell into oblivion, much of it without having ever received any attention whatsoever.


His Third String Quartet is one of eight!! string quartets that Perosi composed during 1928. Such feverous work, some scholars believe, was a therapeutic attempt to rid himself of the severe depression from which he was suffering. It is in three movements. The sunny opening movement, Allegro, opens with a optimistic, heroic theme first given out by the cello over a pulsing accompaniment. A tonally more advanced and diffident second theme follows. The middle movement, Adagio, begins softly with pizzicato. The violin then introduces the first phrase of a very vocal melody. The other voices sing a refrain and the theme is developed but always over a soft, insistent pizzicato. Gradually, sadness and uncertainty creep in. An aura of melancholy hangs over the proceedings. The finale, Vivo, quickly dispels this mood. Over pulsing triplets, the violin introduces an heroic but also sunny, lyrical theme of triumph which is reminiscent of the opening movement.


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