Giuseppe Verdi

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String Quartet (original edition) in e minor or Quintet (String Quartet with Bass)

Notes on the String Quartet

Notes on the Version

For String Quartet and Bass

"Giuseppe Verdi's String Quartet in e minor is excellent in so many ways---its construction, its tonal beauty and its melodies---that it will always be treasured by connoisseurs of music."---the famous chamber music critic Wilhelm Altmann writing in his Chamber Music Handbook.


Verdi's String Quartet in e minor most likely would never have been written had it not been for the postponement for several months of the premiere of his opera Aida in Naples due to the illness of the lead singer. With time on his hands and nothing much to do, Verdi decided to occupy himself by composing a string quartet. It was to be his only purely instrumental work. However, he was no stranger to string quartets and wrote that he always kept the quartets of Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven on his night stand to study before dropping off to sleep. That he only wrote one chamber work can be explained by the fact that in Italy, opera was everything and chamber music nothing. A successful opera brought fame and fortune. A successful chamber music work did little for an Italian composer's reputation or wallet. Verdi attached no particular importance to the Quartet, but it was so unique and original sounding that it became the best known string quartet by an Italian composer. Yet, the truth is, it is not so well known. Everyone associates the name of Verdi with opera. He is, along with Wagner, rightly considered the most important opera composer of all time. And even those who come across his quartet rarely stop to investigate. This is a shame.


The String Quartet in e minor was completed in 1873. The opening movement, Allegro, begins with a dramatic, urgent melody. A contrasting second subject is calmer and reflective. The movement is not developed in the traditional way and has many surprises and interesting twists and turns. A charming Andantino with a simple, naive but lovely main theme comes next. In the third movement, Prestissimo, Verdi shows why he was such a superb opera composer. The music is clearly operatic in nature, full of excitement, drama and fury. In the lovely trio section, the cello alone sings an extended but very fetching aria to the accompaniment of the other three voices. Verdi ends the work in surprising fashion with a fugue. Perhaps he was thinking of Beethoven who also thought to end one of his Late Quartets in this fashion. The finale is marked Scherzo Fuga, Allegro assai mosso, The marking of scherzo is an important clue as Verdi does not intend this to be a heavy, lugubrious affair as Beethoven's Grosse Fuga is, but rather a high-spirited piece--scherzo in Italian means joke, and the music, full of forward motion, conjures up a playful and festive atmosphere.


The Quartet has gone through a number of editions. All but one, the original, have been heavily edited by men who thought they knew better than Verdi did about what he wanted. Only the original 1873 edition by Ricordi of Milan expresses Verdi's intentions and it is fair to assume that he knew what he was about. Yet, the few who have played the work, have not done so in the original but only though the interpolation of German and French violinists and editors who never knew Verdi. We have reprinted the original and commend it to your music stands.

In addition to the original edition for string quartet, we are also pleased to offer it in a version for 2 Violins, Viola, Cello and Bass. Toscanini, perhaps the first, created a version of the work for string orchestra by adding a double bass part.  Others, following in the great conductor’s footsteps, have also prepared orchestral versions. 

Our bass part was made by Anthony Scelba, noted bass soloist, Professor of Music and  Director of the Concert Artists Program of Kean University. Not satisfied with any of the prior adaptations, Professor Scelba has created a more inventive, idiomatic, and independent double bass part that adds to the work without detracting from the original music. And the arrangement is also suitable for performance by string orchestra.

Quartet ensembles as well as bass players are sure to enjoy a chance to play what we believe is the finest version ever made for this instrumentation.


(A) String Quartet-Parts $17.95
(B) String Quartet-Parts & Score $26.95
(C) Quintet Version for 2 Violins, Viola, Cello & Bass-Parts $24.95
(D)Quintet Version for 2 Violins, Viola, Cello & Bass-Parts & Score $33.95




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