String Quartet Rep

July 17, 2017, 1:14 AM · Hi everyone,

I just wanted to ask- what's some good 20th Century string quartet rep myself and three other highschoolers could perform for district (and hopefully make state with) next year?

As a group, we were looking at Shostakovich's 9th, 10th, 11th, and 15th quartets and maybe something by Prokofiev or Bartok. (Not Shosty 8 though, as it's severely overplayed in our school district).

To give you some background information about our experience in chamber music, we recently all performed the orchestral version of Schoenberg's Transfigured Night and three of us played the second movement of Ravel's string quartet in a chamber orchestra last year.


Replies (21)

July 17, 2017, 4:24 AM · Check out Hindemith and Milhaud.
July 17, 2017, 5:11 AM · some piazzolla might be cool :)
July 17, 2017, 8:52 AM · Hi Louis,

if you want to perform something unknown - maybe a world premiere - check out my website. I am a researcher about the compositions for violin of the 20th century and normally publish scores of forgotten violin concertos. But from time to time I stumble across an autograph manuscript of a string quartet, buy it, typeset it and put online for free download. Maybe you want to have a look:

If you have further question or need parts for the works on my website - I would be delighted to help, just drop me a line!


Edited: July 17, 2017, 11:34 AM · I just learned about the Ruth Crawford Seeger quartet (which I've never seen programmed).

There are a few recordings on Youtube. Worth checking out.

Also check out the last two quartets by Frank Bridge. The third in particular is stunning.

ETA that you should also investigate the two Janacek quartets, which are phenomenally beautiful and super challenging.

Disclaimer: I've played none of the options I'm recommending and will defer to the more professional chamber musicians about appropriate difficulty level.

Edited: July 17, 2017, 11:36 AM · The Janacek quartets are crazy tough; they're no stuff for highschool amateurs.
Edited: July 17, 2017, 11:38 AM · Yeah, I realized that after I posted; hence the disclaimer. Still worth listening to and digesting, I think.
July 17, 2017, 1:12 PM · Oh, listening, absolutely. They're wonderful pieces, but too complex and full of special effects for non-pros I'd say.
July 17, 2017, 1:31 PM · Samuel Barber op.11?
July 17, 2017, 1:36 PM · Shostakovich 3, Britten 1
July 17, 2017, 2:50 PM · Why don't you ask your private teachers? If you're playing at that level, surely you are all studying privately. And hopefully get some coaching from one or more of your teachers.
July 17, 2017, 2:52 PM · Check out Villa Lobos #1 - not terribly difficult, and a really nice suite of short movements. Not heard very often, but charming.
July 17, 2017, 3:20 PM · Another vote for Villa-Lobos! It's loads of fun.
July 20, 2017, 1:07 PM · I am actually playing Shostakovitch's 7th quartet and it is amazing. I definitely recommend you consider it! I agree, the 8th quartet is so overplayed in general but it is a masterpiece nonetheless. Good luck!
July 20, 2017, 3:31 PM · The 7th is indeed amazing - my quartet performed it last year. Very difficult, though - the 2nd movement is tough to synchronize tightly with all parts. A very haunting piece, though, & worth the effort to prepare. And, it is short! Only about 13 minutes long.
July 21, 2017, 8:42 AM · Is Janacek not sufficiently contemporary? His quartets were written in the 1920s.
July 22, 2017, 12:52 AM · Arvo Pärt's string quartets may be sufficiently contemporary:

Fratres for string quartet
Psalom for string quartet
Summa for string quartet

July 22, 2017, 5:11 AM · Edmund Rubbra
His string quartets are among the best in 20th century, but only a few musicians ever heard about them.
July 22, 2017, 4:41 PM · Rebecca Clarke wrote a lovely quartet.
July 22, 2017, 11:26 PM · The second String Quartet of Frank Bridge (written 1914/1915) is wonderful!
August 15, 2017, 8:40 AM · David Stone has written some wonderful quartets. He's a bit more modern, which could help you guys stand out, and they're not very difficult at all to play. I performed it in a quartet back in 2003 or so when I was a freshman in high school. We did his String Quartet no. 2. I have a live performance recording of it, I can try to find it and upload/link to it if you'd like. It's such a fun piece that is bound to make you guys stand out (for all the right reasons). Let me know if you want me to find that recording.
August 15, 2017, 11:07 AM · We've decided that we're going with Shostakovich's Seventh Quartet since it's dark, gorgeous (especially that second movement), and will be difficult to pull off for ensemble.

(We would've looked at some of the more modern quartets, but we wanted a composer who was more well-known among adjudicators. Hindemith and Janacek are quite demanding for where we are as an ensemble now, so we'll probably put that off for a year or so.)

Thanks everyone!

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