String Quartet No.2 in c minor
Rudolf Tobias (1873-1918) was born in the Estonian town of Seljaon on the island of Hiiumaa, which at the time was part of the Imperial Russian Empire. He received his first musical training from his father. He entered St. Petersburg Conservatory where he studied composition with Nikolai Rimski-Korsakov. Subsequently worked as a music teacher and journalist. He moved around quite a lot, spending time in Paris, Prague, Leipzig, Dresden and Berlin where he eventually settled, becoming a German citizen. He composed in most genres and has two string quartets to his credit. The first was composed in 1899 shortly after he graduated from the Conservatory.
String Quartet No.2 in c minor dates from 1902 and was completed while he was still living in St. Petersburg. He subsequently arranged the work for piano four hands. Two copies of the manuscript exist, one in Theater and Music Museum of the Estonian capital Tallinn and the other with descendants of Tobias now living in the United States. The opening movement, Allegro moderato, begins with a powerful series of chords which actually form the main theme, somewhat reminiscent of late Beethoven. The music is by turns serious and dramatic and then with the introduction of the dance-like second theme, lighter and more lyrical. The second movement, Allegro vivace, is a tumultuous scherzo which moves forward at a breathtaking pace which is only relieved by a heavy footed trio section. The muted third movement, Andante, Tobias subtitled Nachstück (nocturne). It is emotive and somewhat mysterious with telling use of tremolo and pizzicato. The finale, Allegro con brio, opens with a dramatic and powerful burst. The first subject is yearning while the second retains the same quality but has a more lyrical and swing to it.
This is powerful work deserving of serious attention. Tobias is thought to be the first professional Estonian composer and for that reason alone, the work is valuable, but that aside, the music can stand on its own and is compelling. Both professionals and amateurs will find it worthwhile.
Parts & Score: $36.95