String Quartet No.1 in e minor, Op.112
For many, it may come as a shock to learn that Camille Saint-SaŽns (1835-1921), the famous orchestral composer, devoted a great deal of time and effort to writing chamber music. Not only does he have two string quartets to his credit, but he also wrote three works for piano trio, a serenade for piano, organ, violin and viola ( or cello), a quintet for piano, two violins, viola and cello, a Caprice on Danish & Russian Aires for piano, flute, oboe and B flat clarinet and his Septet for piano, trumpet, two violins, viola, cello and bass. It might further surprise you to know that Saint-SaŽns didnít attempt his first string quartet until 1899, at the ripe old age of sixty four.
The First Quartet was dedicated to the famous violinist Eugen Ysaye, whose quartet premiered it. It was hailed as a masterwork of the French quartet literature, which stood in contrast to what many critics called the foreign tainted school of Cesar Franck. The opening movement, Allegro, begins with a nostalgic singing melody which dissolves into a energetic and angst-ridden piu allegro. Suddenly, out of this comes a wonderfully lyrical melody first given out by the cello. The magnificent second movement, Molto allegro quasi presto, stands out as a tremendous tour de force. It opens with a syncopated melody in the minor. Repeated at the same tempo but with shorter notes, it sounds twice as fast. The development keeps up the break-neck speed until, at last, a fugue is reached. No slower than what has come before, it is more powerful and constantly thrusting forward. A reflective Molto adagio follows. It is a complete change of pace. A long-lined, wistful violin melody holds center court for a great while before a more turbulent section makes its appearance. The finale, Allegro non troppo, has a bit of the feel of the second movement, though it is more relaxed and not so feverish. However, its use of varied rhythms does create an underlying sense of restlessness.
Professionals and amateurs looking for a powerful and original work from the late French Romantic period would do well to consider this fine work. Often out of print and when obtainable usually terribly expensive, we are pleased to make it available at a very affordable price.
Parts & Score: $36.95