String Quartet in c minor, Op.74
"All of his themes are quite pleasing. This is a beautiful work which is not difficult to play."---The famous chamber music critic and scholar, Wilhelm Altmann, writing in his Handbook for String Quartet Players.
David Popper (1843-1913) was born in Prague. He studied at the Prague Conservatory with Julius Goltermann. He was widely considered the the greatest cellist of the last decades of the 19th century and toured as a soloist throughout Europe for nearly 30 years. He knew virtually all of the leading composers of the day such as Wagner, Bruckner, Liszt, Raff and Brahms, with whom he was good friends. Liszt, founder of the Budapest Conservatory, personally selected Popper to be his Professor of Cello. In addition to his solo career, he served as cellist in two of the foremost string quartets of the time, the Hellmesberger Quartet of Vienna and the Hubay-Popper Quartet of Budapest.
Popper's String Quartet was composed in 1903-4 while he was active with the Hubay-Popper Quartet, a group with whom Brahms, among others, had performed on several occasions. While the work shows the influence of Mendelssohn and Schumann, but also of Brahms and Wagner, making for quite an interesting quartet. The opening movement, Allegro moderato, opens with a short introduction before a brooding theme is brought forth in unison, rising quickly to a dramatic climax. The dense texture, created by the chords, gives the movement a great sense of power. The second movement, Scherzo allegro vivace, is playful, fleet and buoyant as well as heavily accented. The music moves forward with great elan. A marvelous chromatic trio section provides a superb contrast. The lovely Adagio grave which follows, though not sad, does have a valedictory, contemplative aura to it. The finale, Allegro vivace, starts with a restless melody and then is interrupted by a series of chords which lead to an ominous, Wagnerian march-like theme. Tension which to a dramatic climax quickly follows.
Unavailable for many years, we think players will greatly enjoy having the opportunity to play this quartet from a composer who knew the genre of the String Quartet from the inside out.