String Quartet No.4 in D Major, Op.62
Felix Weingartner (1863-1942) was born in Zara, Dalmatia, today's Zadar, Croatia, to Austrian parents. In 1883, he went to the Leipzig Conservatory where he studied composition with Carl Reinecke. He also studied privately with Franz Liszt in Weimar. Weingartner was one of the most famous and successful conductors of his time, holding positions in Hamburg, Mannheim, Danzig, Munich, Berlin and Vienna, where he succeeded Gustav Mahler as Director of the Imperial Opera. Despite his demanding career as a conductor, Weingartner, like Mahler, thought of himself equally as a composer and devoted considerable time to composition. He wrote several symphonies, numerous operas, some instrumental concertos, and a considerable amount of chamber music, including four string quartets, a piano sextet and a string quintet. Additionally he wrote a great number of vocal works and instrumental sonatas. Though many of his works originally achieved a fair amount acclaim, they quickly disappeared from the concert stage. It is only in the past few years that their excellence has been rediscovered.
Weingartner’s first three string quartets were composed and published within a few years of each other. The Third was finished in 1903. Fifteen years and a World War separate that work from String Quartet No.4 which appeared in 1918. Nonetheless, this quartet shows many of the same characteristics of the preceding ones. Wilhelm Altmann writing in his Chamber Music Handbook has this to say: "The main theme of the opening movement, Allegro grazioso, is dominated by its rhythmic figures while the charming and playful second theme is quite catchy and reminds one of something that could have been used in a cowboy Western movie. The following Elegy, Andante con poco moto, is everything that such a movement should be—emotive, somewhat sad and reflective, the writing is superb. The third movement, Allegro vivo, bursts forth impetuosity. Weingartner compliments his compelling rhythmic writing very effective use of both pizzicato and ponticello. A highly chromatic and somewhat wayward trio section provides good constrast., serves as a scherzo. The trio makes a strong impression and contrast with its warm melody. The finale, Vivace assai, both in spirit and tonality has a rather classical aura to it. It sounds what Mozart might have written had he been living in the first decade of the 20th century, combining clever playfulness with lovely melody.
Here is a first rate quartet which is sure to triumph in the concert hall but is not beyond amateur players who will undoubtedly get great pleasure from playing a excellent early modern work which is well within their reach.