Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
String Quartet No.3 in e flat minor, Op.30
"Tchaikovsky's String Quartet No.3 ought not to be overlooked for it belongs to the most valuable works for this genre." ---Wilhelm Altmann in his Handbook for String Quartet Players.
But how may people have heard it, much less played it? Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) is one of the most famous composers who ever lived and as such needs no introduction. However, chamber music is scarcely the first, second or even third musical genre with which he is associated. But, like most of the major composers of the 19th century, he made substantial contributions to the chamber music repertoire. Unfortunately, most of it, with the exception of the famous Andante cantabile, the second movement from his First String Quartet, is unknown and rarely if ever performed in concert. This is a shame, because it is of a very high caliber and surely deserves to be better known.
Tchaikovsky was 36 at the time he completed his Third String Quartet in 1876. It was dedicated to the memory of the violinist Ferdinand Laub, who was not only Tchaikovsky's friend, but also a fellow professor at the Moscow Conservatory and the leader of the string quartet which had premiered his first two string quartets. The Quartet begins slowly, Andante sostenuto, however the main theme is marked Allegro moderato and is foreshadowed in the introduction. It is the rhythm which captures the listener's attention, however, the second theme is more lyrical. The second movement, Allegro vivo e scherzando, is a light and airy intermezzo. It is the slow movement, Andante funebre e doloroso ma con moto, which explicitly commemorates Laub. Played muted, the first subject creates a kind of sobbing effect with its use of chords. The first violin is given a lengthy passionate declamatory passage. The second theme is less dramatic but more elegiac. The vigorous finale, Allegro risoluto, provides a welcome mood contrast from the deep grief expressed in the slow movement.
This is a work which belongs in the first rank of string quartets. It has been out of print or very hard to get for many years now. Several older editions leave a lot to be desired. Some are without rehearsal numbers (Jurgenson) others were printed with very poor ink and paper (Frederic Schreiber) and are hard to read. We have reprinted what is probably the best edition ever made of this work and hope that professionals and amateurs will add this fine work to their collections.
Parts & Score: $33.95