String Quartet in A Major, Op.2
Richard Strauss (1864-1949), of course, needs no introduction. His orchestral compositions and operas have made him one of the best known composers of the late 19th and 20th century. While Strauss did not, in later life, devote much time to chamber music, in his earlier years he tried his hands at several different types of chamber works composing a string quartet, two piano trios, a piano quartet and several instrumental sonatas.
During his early years, Strauss took Schumann and Mendelssohn as his models. The String Quartet, which dates from 1882, is typical of his style at this time. Later, of course, he came under the influence of the new tonalities of Liszt, Berlioz and Wagner. Although the Quartet is the work of an 18 year old, knowledgeable critics have never considered it a juvenile work. Wilhelm Altmann, the Dean of Chamber Music Critics, writes, "There are so many pleasing features and it is so delightful to play, and so full of sound musicianship, that it will always be sure of a welcome among players and listeners."
The opening Allegro begins in a rather formal fashion. The main theme is not immediately obvious, however, the lovely second theme is quite transparent. The music is genial and moves at a leisurely pace for some time until it finally builds to a very Mendelssohnian climax. The second movement is a brilliant Scherzo. A quick two-step begins affairs, but a long-lined melody appears above the jumping creating a very interest contrast. The development, however, is entirely given over to its rhythm. The trio section is akin to waltz. The finale, Allegro vivace, has a pleasant and playful melody for its main theme. The second theme is gentler and presented in choral fashion. Its initial appearance is quite brief but later, it plays a much larger role.
Certainly this is a work that amateurs get great please from but which is also strong enough to be presented in the concert hall. The Quartet was only published once, unfortunately without any rehearsal letters. We have added rehearsal letters to our edition.