Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
String Quartet in B flat Major, Op. Post.
Tchaikovsky was sent by his father to study law at the Imperial School of Jurisprudence. After graduating, he entered the St. Petersburg Conservatory where, from 1862-1865, he studied composition which the Conservatoryís founder and director, Anton Rubinstein.
The String Quartet in B flat Major which has traveled under the Op. Post. sobriquet because it was not discovered until after his death. It was actually composed in 1865 shortly after he had finished his studies at the Conservatory. The work is in one movement and two theories have been advanced as to why that may have been. The first theory postulates that it was intended as the first movement of a string quartet which the composer never completed. The argument which best supports this theory is that there are few if any instances of one movement string quartets which might have served as an example for the composer. The second theory postulates that it could not have been intended as only the first movement as each part is 10 pages in length. Had it only been the first movement of a projected work, that work would have would have been of mammoth proportions. It may well have been that as the movement took shape, Tchaikovsky realized that it could not be more than one movement because of its length.
It might also be argued that it is not simply in one movement but three movements or, if one movement, a movement with three distinct sections. It opens Adagio misterioso. The music is quiet and tonally dark, partially recalling the music of the Russian Orthodox Church. At the end of the section, each instrument is given a cadenza, the last of which violin heralds in the main section, Allegro con moto, which has main theme a lovely, lyrical Russian melody. The second melody is very bit as lyrical, Their development is painstaking and involves several different treatments, including a fugue. Slowly, the music in subtle fashion becomes calmer and brings back the introductory section, which brings the work to a close in quiet, valedictory mood.
Really, it can be said, given the movementís length that this is a quartet in a single movement. Certainly, it is the equal in length to many three or four movement quartets.
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