String Quartet No.2 in D Major, Op.13
Hans Pfitzner (1869–1949) was born in Moscow of German parents. His father was a professional violinist and he received violin lessons from his father. Later he studied piano and composition at the Hoch Conservatory in Frankfurt. He enjoyed a long career as a conductor and teacher. His music was held in high regard by contemporaries such as Richard Strauss and Gustav Mahler. Pfitzner was an avowed opponent of the Second Vienna School with its serialism and atonal music. Instead, he sought new paths for traditional tonality. He composed in nearly every genre and is best known for his operas. He did not ignore chamber music, writing a number of string quartets, two piano trios and a piano quintet.
His String Quartet No.2 in D Major, Op.13 was composed in 1903 and was highly praised at its premiere. It is a work noteworthy not only for its extraordinary use of counterpoint for also for its architecture. The first movement, In mäßig gehender Bewegung (in a moderate tempo), has a constantly shifting tonal base, while its main theme is a relaxed legato melody, the second theme is more energetic and rhythmic. The second movement, Kräftig mit humor (powerfully with humor) is a scherzo with three themes. The viola and the second violin have a playful dialogue. A second theme has a teasing quality, while the third is altogether happier. Next comes a slow movement, Sehr langsam (very slow). Its linear counterpoint and harmony are very clever, while the main theme has a song-like lyricism. The finale, In heiteren Reigentempo, quasi Andantino (in a bright round dance tempo), has three themes, each delightful and bright. Wilhelm Altmann, writing in his Handbook for String Quartet Players warmly recommends this quartet to amateurs and professionals alike.