What's your favorite string quartet? (fav. movement...etc)

November 13, 2008 at 06:15 AM ·

My high school string quartet is looking for a great string quartet we can really sink our teeth into. I'm TIRED of Haydn and Mozart.... give me your favorite string quartets, the best movements, even if they're ridiculously hard... I want to hear your opinions!

I want your opinions- what's the greatest most intruiging literature for string quartet!?!


Replies (29)

November 13, 2008 at 06:50 AM ·

Well if you're into hard, there's the late Beethoven quartets.  Besides being absolutely astonishing in some of the movements, they're pretty hard, from what I hear ;).  There's basically no other quartets which are so interesting to me until 20th century i.e. Ravel, Bartok, Prokofiev, (oh what the hell, I'll throw Walton in there, too) which could be good for 'sinking into'.  Having never played any of them, however, my opinion probably isn't worth much.

November 13, 2008 at 06:53 AM ·

My favs (non-Mozart/Beethoven/Haydn):

Borodin - No 2

Dvorak - The American

Schumann - Death & the Maiden

Rebecca Clarke - 2 movements for String Quartet (quite modern)

If you want to attempt an insanely crazy one, go for Bartok.  No3 will give your violist a few fits.  I mean, who in their right mind would try to play up to the end of the fingerboard on the G string while playing an open C drone!!! 

November 13, 2008 at 07:02 AM ·

At first I thought you meant group and my response was the The Takács Quartet because they have been based in Boulder, Colorado since the early 80s and I first saw them in '85.  But I realize you mean musical work.  My favorites, in keeping with the origin of the group, are the Bartók Quartets and the 4th in particular.  I like the 3rd movement most of all.  

November 13, 2008 at 07:03 AM ·

Brahms String Quartet No. 1   

November 13, 2008 at 08:39 AM ·

I used to favour the late Beethoven quartets over anything else and I still cherish them, but I also made some new friends since then ...

Ervin Schulhoff, Five pieces for string quartet, especially the 2nd mvmt "Alla Serenata", this has an amazing dynamic, but the musicians have to get it right, some lose the dynamic of the piece.


Dmitri Shostakovich, 3rd quartet, in particular the finale (5th movement) which is a beautiful passacaglia with an amazing buildup to its climax. The other movements of this quartet are also outstanding, each one in a different way. Perhaps the 3rd movement is notable because the instruments are played almost like percussion instruments, a good performance of this movement will put any rock band to shame.



Bohuslav Martinu, Three Horsemen (Tri Jezdci), a single movement quartet which he composed as a 12 year old, in fact his first composition, an absolutely fascinating piece, quite modern for the year in which it was composed (1902) and all the more mind boggling considering it is a 12 year old country boy's first composition.

If you are looking to play something off the beaten track, something to surprise an audience with (in a positive way) I'd highly recommend Martinu's Three Horsemen. There are very few performances of this piece outside of the Czech Republic and even fewer recordings. The Martinu Quartet on Naxos might well be the only one available outside of the Czech Republic.

In the event you like this piece and want to study it, you will need to contact the Martinu museum in Policka to obtain a copy of the autograph because the score has never been published. You might also email the Martinu Quartet and ask if they will send you their score. They are very helpful when it comes to anything in relation to promoting Martinu's music and they do respond to email.

Schulhoff's 5 pieces for string quartet are also very rarely performed and every piece is in a totally different style, as diverse as Viennese, Czech, Tango Milonga etc. Again, very well suited if you want to surprise your audience with something off the beaten track but without the risk of being too heavy on them, for example Bartok could easily overwhelm an audience unless they're true connoiseurs.

November 13, 2008 at 08:12 AM ·

Mendy, Death and the Maiden is Schubert, not Schumann ;-)

However, the Schumann quartets are very interesting, too. I often listen to a playlist "All string quartets" on my iPod and the quartets then play in random order. When I was still unfamiliar with the Schumann quartets, I often found myself wondering "Wow, this is great, what is it?" and when I looked at the display, it said "Schumann", so I can say with confidence, they do stand out, literally ;-)

November 13, 2008 at 09:07 AM ·

Benjamin -

Wooops!  Thanks for the catch.  It was a long day :) 

November 13, 2008 at 01:55 PM ·

op. 59, no. 1

November 13, 2008 at 02:09 PM ·

The Ravel Qaurtet!

November 13, 2008 at 03:29 PM ·

Greig ( I think it's a string quartet, not a trio...remembering from my college time.  Awesome)

November 13, 2008 at 03:47 PM ·

Yes, Grieg's quartet in G, awesome indeed.

November 13, 2008 at 03:48 PM ·

I am with Bill Walderman - Op. 59, No. 1.

November 13, 2008 at 03:59 PM ·

I don't know if the score is available anywhere, but another interesting quartet I came across recently is Arvo Part, "Fratres for string quartet". If you have seen the movie "There will be blood", the cello version of this, "Fratres for eight cellos" is featured prominently in the movie as background music.

November 13, 2008 at 07:44 PM ·

I've two particular Mendelssohn favorites: Op. 44 No. 1 D Major (esp. the second movement), and Op. 80 F Minor.

I've also enjoyed some of Glazunov's seven quartets, though they seem to rather obscure and not performed very frequently.


November 13, 2008 at 08:52 PM ·

Borodin both.

Taneyev 1 and 2

Glazunov 3 and 5

Dvorak op.105 and 106

LvB op 59 No.1

November 13, 2008 at 10:21 PM ·

Schubert Death and the Maiden is amazing, but the first fiddle part is very tough.  All 4 movements are fantastic, but my favorite is the 2nd.

Beethoven Opus 18, No 1 is a popular choice.  The first movement is probably the most well known.

This is a great thread.  I need to find more repertoire for our string quartet, and this will be a great resource.

November 13, 2008 at 10:28 PM ·

Why doesn't someone mention Schubert #13? The Rosamunde?  So wonderfully "meaty" and gorgeous.

In my opinion, nothing is as touching as Beethoven's late quartets; specifically his Op. 127 (those opening chords are the definition of broad), and his op. 132.

The Hymn from op. 132 has always made me cry-i usually listen to my iPod before school in my PE class, and people walk in on me after I've listened to the hymn, and ask why I was crying.

November 13, 2008 at 10:47 PM ·


I think if you are tired of Haydn you probably haven`T explored them enough.   Of course the three warhorses (?) Kaiser,  Sunrise and fifths are probably played once to often at the expense of others.  But then they are some of the greatest msuic ever written.   The slow movemen of op 76 no5 is mindblowing. You might go back to what i find is his first really moving quarter- 0pus 20 no4.  

Mozart quartets are extremely difficult to pull off and very frustrating.  There is a very amausing chapter in Indivisble by Four in which a young and brillaint collection of Msuciians led by Arnold Steinhardt prove incaple of mastering even one of these.   The Schubert quartets are gorgoues and presnet problems of interpretation of an akward kind that can make them as frustratign a sMozart to try and pull off.

If you are going to play Beethoven I have found over the years it is often easier for begnning quartets to start with middle ones like opus 59 ratehr than the opus 18 although the latter appear easier on the surface.  Traditionally beginners to Beethoven start with opus 18no 4 or no1 .....

The Sibelius quarter is fantastic and well worth a greta deal of study.  I am gald Martinu wa smentioned. I am a biog fan of his msuic and try to introducve as much of his music to my stduents as posisble.  Off the track,  but his Sonatina is a wonderful work for beginner sas are his five pieces which I think are lsited in the ASTA list.

I think one of the best things you might try,  rather than tackle the Bartok tooo soon is explore the works of Shostakovitch. And i mean relaly explore. It is not just a question of learning no8 (awesome and accessible9and saying thats it. The whole amssive ouvre of Shosty quartets covers a range of sounds ,  styles and developments that has an uncanny resemblence to the groupings one can observe in the Beethoven.  I think it was a product of a logcial dveeolopmentla course rather than a product of influence. But , like Beethoven ,  you have to paly most of them to really udnertsand any individual quartet. And it really is worth the effort.

If yyou really want to stretch yourself techncially then the Mendelssohn D major is a bu#$%".




November 13, 2008 at 11:04 PM ·

The Sibelius, as Mr. Brivati mentioned, which is nicknamed "Intimate Voices", is just that.  It is so stunning that I keep listening to it over and over.  It starts off with a small theme, which is added to more and more as the movement wears on.

The intimiate voices was a quartet that The Guarneri Quartet actually didn't like at first, as stated in Steinhardt's book, Indivisible by Four, also previously mentioned by Mr. Brivati.  However, it is a masterpiece.  I also second the Grieg-if you guys are skilled enough.  Which I'm sure you are, J.

November 15, 2008 at 02:15 AM ·


November 15, 2008 at 03:05 PM ·

Dvorak Op.51  (not as well-known or flashy as the American, but equally satisfying musically)

Mendlessohn Op. 13

Tchaikovsky No. 1 in D-major Op.11

Schostakovich (maybe no. 6?)

Schubert (if not death and the Maiden, maybe an earlier quartet)


November 15, 2008 at 03:30 PM ·

Beethoven Op 74, especially the coda to the first movement.

Not his very greatest work, but a personal favorite nonetheless.


November 15, 2008 at 03:36 PM ·

A second vote for the Ravel. A really exciting piece of music.


November 15, 2008 at 03:39 PM ·

Op. 59 #1.  Woo Hoo!

Also, Op. 18 #4.

November 15, 2008 at 07:52 PM ·

Thanks y'all- this helps me out alot!!!!

November 15, 2008 at 11:34 PM ·


Beethoven Op 74, especially the coda to the first movement. Not his very greatest work, but a personal favorite nonetheless. 

One of my personal favourites too, the coda to the first movement is certainly a great moment in the entire repertoire for quartet. I find it hard to contemplate which might be the greatest, they're all gems and are special in their own way. I was playing the op.74 when i wrote my String Quartet no.2 so drew lots of inspiration from that particular quartet. 

In the op.74 it seems to be the tradition to slow down the viola solo in the 4th movement variations, but i'm not really convinced about that being necessary in the way that it often is done.

The Prokofiev 2nd is maybe a bit uneven but the second and third movements I particularly liked. The second violin is rather virtuosic.


November 16, 2008 at 08:19 PM ·

High school student and "tired" of Haydn and mozart??

 Who are you? The André Rieu of tomorrow??

November 17, 2008 at 06:53 PM ·

It's a tie:
Beethoven, Op. 59, #3 - slow movement
Bartok, #4, 1st movement

November 17, 2008 at 09:51 PM ·

I just heard the Takacs play Bartok #4 yesterday, with the folk band Muzikas (sp?)  doing various things between movements.   

A most interesting afternoon.

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