String Quartet in a minor, Op.32
Jozef Wieniawski's only string quartet, the String Quartet in a minor dates from 1882. In its time, it was an extremely popular work, going through several editions before the outbreak of the First World War. This was no doubt due to the fact that it not only is filled with very appealing melodies but also has extremely fine part writing in which all four voices are given a chance to lead. In the opening movement, Allegro con brio, the first part of the brooding main theme is introduced by the cello and completed by the first violin. It is soon taken up by the others. The second theme is dominated by its unusual rhythm, giving the music an exotic flavor. Next comes a beautiful and highly romantic Andante cantabile. The vocal quality of the music is quite apparent. The Scherzo, vivo con leggierezza, is more like a slinky intermezzo than a scherzo. It, too, is dominated by its somewhat unusual rhythm. The finale, Allegro energico e con fuoco, is as the title suggests full of forward motion and fire.
Jozef Wieniawski (1837-1912) was born in the Polish city of Lublin, then part of the Russian empire. Today, if he is remembered at all, it is as the younger brother of the more famous Henryk Wieniawski, one of the most outstanding violinists of all time. However, Jozef, during his lifetime, was one of Europe's best known and leading musicians in his own right. His first lessons were with his mother a fine pianist, a student of Eduard Wolff. At the age of 10, he entered the Paris Conservatory where he studied with Pierre Zimmermann and François Marmontel. Subsequently, a scholarship from the Tsar of Russia enabled him t to study with Franz Liszt. For a while, he performed with his brother Henryk, but then embarked on his own as a touring piano virtuoso and was considered one of the foremost pianists of the time. Liszt thought so well of him that they played duo piano concertos in concert together. Josef knew and was friends with many of the Europe’s leading composers such as Rossini, Gounod, Berlioz and Wagner and was a favorite of several national leaders including Napoleon III and the Tsar. Besides his career as a virtuoso pianist, he was a much sought after conductor and teacher. He served as a professor of piano at both the Moscow Conservatory and the Brussels Conservatory. He did not ignore composition, penning a very successful piano concerto, several other works for piano, as well as a string quartet and this piano trio which were very highly praised.
Our edition is based on the 1882 Kahnt first edition. This quartet is not only suitable for concert performance but will also be welcomed by amateur players as it presents no technical difficulties.