String Quartet No.1 in d minor, Op.22
"Stöhr's chamber music has both classical and romantic elements...his skill and highly developed gift of combination achieves impressive artistic effects, such as only a true master can produce."---The critic Rudolf Felber writing in Cobbett's Cyclopedic Survey of Chamber Music.
Richard Stöhr (1874-1967) was born in Vienna. His father insisted that he study medicine and Stöhr only formally studied music after receiving an M.D. He entered the Vienna Academy of Music and studied composition with Robert Fuchs receiving a doctorate in 1903. He immediately obtained a teaching position at the Academy and was appointed a professor of composition in 1915, a position he held until 1938. Although Stöhr steadily composed throughout these years, he was better known as an expert on music theory, having written a well received text on the subject. In 1938, he was forced to flee Austria because of the Nazi takeover. He emigrated to the United States. There, he obtained a similar position at the Curtiss Institute of Music. Among his many students were Leonard Bernstein, Erich Leinsdorf, Herbert von Karajan, Erich Zeisl, and Samuel Barber.
Stöhr’s String Quartet No.1 in d minor was composed in 1903 but only published in 1911. The opening movement, Allegro appassionato, begins in dramatic fashion with the urgent main theme and a pulsing accompaniment providing considerable forward motion. Rather than developing this theme, Stöhr immediately presents a somber, but more lyrical second subject. Again tension is quickly builds to a dramatic climax. Again, Stöhr opts to forego development in favor of presenting a third subject. But then the rest movement is given over to the most intricate and effective development of all three themes. The main subject of the lovely second movement, Andante cantabile, is languid and tonally wayward, in many ways quite modern for its time. A scherzo, Molto vivace, comes next. It is a merry, lopsided, syncopated dance. Again, we can hear certain gentle, modern, post romantic tendencies. The finale is, Allegro giusto, is marked Alla Zingarese and the music is energetic and rustic, bringing to mind the music one might have heard at a peasant wedding. But following this, Stöhr changes gears and the music exudes an exotic aura.