Air and Variations in B flat Major for String Quartet, Op.11
"Along with Josef Rheinberger's Theme and Variations for String Quartet, Tovey's Air and Variations is the finest work of its kind and like the Rheinberger should be a must for every string quartet player at some time in their life."---The Chamber Music Journal.
Donald Tovey (1875-1940) was born in the English town of Eton. He studied piano privately and subsequently attended Oxford and the Royal Academy of Music in London where he studied composition with Hubert Parry. He enjoyed a career as a concert performer as well as a composer and served as a Professor of Music for more than 25 years at Edinburgh University. Today he is best remembered for his essays on music, but he regarded himself first and foremost as a composer. Tovey wrote in most genres and his compositions were not only respected but regularly performed in such important venues as London, Vienna and Berlin. But like the works of so many others, it has inexplicably disappeared from the concert stage. He wrote several chamber music works, most dating from the last decade of the 19th century up to the First World War.
The Air and Variations date from 1900. It is a massive affair equal in length to a full Brahms quartet. The air, the theme which begins the work, is quite simple and of a gentle nature. The title of the work implies a link with the Baroque and indeed there is certainly an aura of the baroque to the music, however, the treatment is thoroughly modern. The different styles and invention of each of the variations clearly showcase Tovey's masterful compositional technique.
Long out of print, it and unjustly ignored, it is truly a travesty that a masterpiece such as this never entered the repertoire. Here is a work that will be a sure triumph in the concert hall for any professional group which brings it but we also warmly recommend it to amateurs as it presents no technical difficulties.