String Quartet No.2
Sergei Rachmaninov (1873-1943) is well-known both for having been a famous piano virtuoso and for having composed several important piano concertos as well as other works for orchestra. Few, however, know that he wrote chamber music. All of his chamber music was written early in his career. In addition to two completed piano trios, a cello sonata, several pieces for violin and piano and two string quartets neither of which is complete. Both have only two movements. Over the years, there has been much speculation as to whether the parts to the other movements were lost or whether Rachmaninov simply never got around to completing either work.
String Quartet No.2 dates from 1896. There is no conclusive evidence that the work was ever performed in Rachmaninov's lifetime. He apparently did not write out the parts and there appears to have only been a score which existed in manuscript. Finally, in 1947, through the work of Professors Dobrokholov and Kirkor of the Moscow Conservatory, the score and a set of parts were published by the Soviet State Publishers during Stalin's time. Our edition is based on that one. The two extant movements are marked Allegro moderato and Andante molto sostenuto. As such, it is fair to assume that these comprise the first two movements of the work.
The Allegro moderato begins in a melancholy mood, not dark or tragic, but certainly not bright or happy. Although he clearly writes in his own voice, one can nonetheless hear the influence of Tchaikovsky whose music greatly influenced him. The tempo remains relaxed although there are several abrupt climaxes, He takes his time in creating any tension, waiting until the introduction of the second subject. The Andante molto sostenuto begins darkly in mysterious fashion. The cello opens with a repeating motif which as the music takes shape appears to be a funeral march.
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