Rep for quartets with weak cellist?

January 10, 2020, 6:33 AM · My son's school orchestra is splitting into chamber groups next quarter. His quartet has two very strong violinists, a competent (though not the same level) violist, and a much weaker cellist. The violinists can likely play pretty much anything in the standard quartet repertoire. (They are currently playing Tzigane and Carmen Fantasy for playing level reference.)

They need a 6 minute quartet movement that is heavily violin-oriented with a pretty simple cello part. Any suggestions? Since it is school and the serious players are also in pre-college programs, it doesn't necessarily have to be particularly pedagogically-oriented as they already get that in their Saturday programs.

Replies (9)

Edited: January 10, 2020, 8:27 AM · The general answer to this is to go baroque. Then the cello parts are continuo. Look for Vivaldi, Corelli, etc.

There was a similar thread about a month ago. Look for that too.

Edit: I see now that the prior thread was about orchestral music, not string quartets.

January 10, 2020, 8:52 AM · The earlier the Haydn quartet, the more there is for the first violin and the less for the others.

I would not recommend Baroque music with continuo parts. Those can be surprisingly difficult to make sound good and at the very least must be played in tune to be tolerable.

January 10, 2020, 9:34 AM · My thinking was to find continuo parts that have been converted by an editor into playable but not overly difficult cello parts. But I agree that early Haydn could fill the bill.
Edited: January 10, 2020, 12:24 PM · Check out the quartet volumes published by Last Resort Music these are modifications of classical chamber and orchestra music that depend most on the 1st violin and have mostly simple cello parts. They also have a Christmas album if you are inclined to make music for that season. They also have "music for three" and Music for two"

January 10, 2020, 2:45 PM · Looking at Susan's problem from another angle, perhaps the experience of playing with two experienced violinists and a competent violist will encourage the weak cellist and help him or her to develop - learning to listen to the ensemble more intently, better intonation and synchronisation with the others, for a start.
January 10, 2020, 3:17 PM · On the other hand: Everybody presumably knows already that the two violinists can play difficult stuff. Why not play something less difficult in order to accommodate the cellist? You don't have to show everything you can every time you perform. Especially since in those quartets with a difficult first part (such as--very!--early Haydn) the second as well as the viola is treated quite miserly by the composer.

I am thinking early Mozart such as movement 1 from K. 156 in G Major. Alfred Einstein in his Mozart book pointed out this movement as special. I tried it and Einstein was right! It is a little short; one could combine it with the last movement and skip a repeat or two to get it to about 6 min. I think to get it to sound well will require quite a bit of work in the ensemble even though the parts are easily sight readable.

January 10, 2020, 3:31 PM · Well, the goal is to find something that all of them can play competently and successfully. That likely will mean something easier for the violins. The Mozart is a nice idea. My son is already doing some Haydn with his regular quartet, so that might be Haydn overdose for him.
January 10, 2020, 5:17 PM · Many of the early to middle Mozart quartets have mild cello parts.
January 10, 2020, 6:25 PM · I don't think I could ever have a Haydn overdose.

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