Theme and Variations for String Quartet, Op.3
There is virtually no information available about Wladimir Pogojeff (1851-1935 more properly Vladimir Petrovich Pogozhev, in Russian Владимир Петрович Погожев) in any of the standard reference sources. Cobbett's Cyclopedic Survey of Chamber Music wrongly gives his name as Nikolai Pogojev and his date of birth as 1874. He is known by the French and German spelling of his name because his publisher, M.P. Belaiev transliterated it like that into French and the Germans followed suit. There never was any English transliteration. His dates are generally listed as 1872-1941 but that is because, once again, those were the dates given by Belaiev. But they are wrong. We shall refer to him as Pogojeff, since musically this is the spelling by which he has been called. He entered the Imperial Law School in St. Petersburg, the same one that Tchaikovsky attended, and then entered military service as an officer. He left the service in 1882 and served on the Board of Imperial Theaters in St. Petersburg and Moscow, eventually becoming Manager of the Board. Around this time, he began his musical studies with Rimsky Korsakov privately. As manager of the Imperial Theaters, he was responsible for the staging of many operas by the leading composers such as Borodin, Korsakov and Tchaikovsky with whom he was on friendly terms. He subsequently wrote several books on the theater and acting and is best known, at least in Russian circles, for his books. We know through the research of Professor Richard Taruskin (author of On Russian Music) and also from a few Russian sources that the Pogozhev who was the stage impresario was the same man as the Pogojeff whose works Belaiev published.
Pogojeff did not write a great deal and mostly occupied himself with arrangements of the works of other composers. However, he did leave us three works for string quartet. The Op.3 Theme & Variations is the first of the first of the three. It is dedicated to M.P. Beliaev, the famous Russian music publisher and patron of chamber music. One can hear the influence of his teacher as one hears it in the works of Borodin, Glazunov and Kopylov to name but a few. It has the same charm and appeal. The theme Pogojeff chooses is a somber and dignified Russian folk tune. He follows it with seven variations and a lengthy coda. The variations provide excellent contrast with each other and include a catchy pizzicato variation, a slow funereal variation, a waltz, a fugue among others. (Our soundbite does not present all of the variations and shortens several of them considerably.)
Out of print for nearly a century this lovely work makes a great short program work and can even be used as a substantial encore.