Giovanni Battista Viotti
String Quartet in F Major, G.112
Few, other than violinists, are familiar with the name Giovanni Battista Viotti (1755-1824), yet he wrote hundreds of works in most every genre, many of which, in his time, were held in high regard and received frequent public performance. Viotti was widely considered the greatest violin virtuoso of the 18th century. He was the precursor to Paganini, not only in his development of violin technique but also in his use of Italian vocal melody in instrumental music. Viotti toured throughout Europe eventually settling in Paris where he lived for many years before moving to London where he stayed until his death.
The String Quartet in G Major, G.112 is the first of a set of three concertante works which were composed around 1815 and published in Paris two years later. Concertante style, as opposed to that pioneered by Haydn with its complex accompaniment, gives one voice the solo whilst the others have a simpler, supporting accompaniment. But these three concertante quartets are among the best of their type. Each instrument is given solos throughout and Viotti's gift for lovely melodies is everywhere apparent.
The quartet opens Moderato with a gentle Italian vocal melody in the first violin. soon the others join in and gradually momentum picks up. Viotti creates some very original tonal touches in the dialogue between the cello and first violin. A somewhat dark Minuetto comes next. The pace is brisk--Piu tosto presto--is what Viotti asks for. The trio is a simple but lovely Lšndler type theme. There is no slow movement, for the following Andante, while not fast, certainly does not lag. The theme is straight forward, but the embellishment give it piquancy. The finale, Allegretto, begins with a jaunty little melody which becomes more lively as it restated and again anticipates Paganini.