Prince Heinrich XXIV Reuss of Köstritz
String Quartet No.5 in E flat Major, Op.23 No.2
“Heinrich XXIV’s Fourth and Fifth String Quartets were published in 1904. I hold both works in high esteem. Quartet No.5 is fresh and and written on a generous scale, this is especially true of the opening movement, Allegro non troppo. A very pleasing Intermezzo, Allegretto grazioso, serves as the second movement. It is indeed not only charming but masterfully written. Next comes an effective slow movement, Adagio non troppo. The finale, Vivace, is a fleet affair, beginning first with a hunt-like subject, then followed by an energetic subject and a third, warmer, more lyrical melody. Technically, it makes no great demands on the players.”—–the famous critic and chamber music scholar Wilhelm Altmann, writing in his Handbook for String Quartet Players.
Prince Heinrich XXIV Reuss of Köstritz (1855-1910), was born in the Prussian town of Trebschen. The Reusses were a large old German noble family with several branches and literally dozens of princes called Heinrich. There was even another Prince Heinrich XXIV, but he "of Greiz", hence the need for the lengthy name. Our Prince Reuss after initially studying music with his father, who had been a student of Carl Reissiger, took a law degree. However, subsequently he devoted himself to music, studying composition privately with Heinrich von Herzogenberg who introduced him to Brahms. Although Brahms never formally gave lessons to Reuss, according to the prince he gave the young composer numerous suggestions and considerable help which as far as Reuss was concerned almost amounted to the same thing. Though not a prolific composer, he did pen six symphonies as well as a considerable amount of chamber music, including five string quartets, two string sextets, three piano trios, a piano quartet, a piano quintet as well as several instrumental sonatas. His style can be an amalgam of Brahms, Herzogenberg and to some extent Dvorak and Mendelssohn. His works were premiered to critical acclaim and were held in high regard for many years before disappearing from the repertoire after the First World War.
This is another very fine work by a composer who knew how to write quite well for string players. It is not technically difficult and yet it so well written that it deserves to be heard in concert. Long out of print, we are pleased to make it available once again.