Romantic quartet movements with great viola and cello parts
One of the chamber-music performance organizations in DC requires auditions, and I'm trying to help some new collaborators do the quartet audition.
We've got the rest of the program put together, but we need one movement of a Romantic quartet, preferably not too long (though we can cut repeats). In particular, we need the work to have juicy viola and cello parts (they needn't be solos, but they should demonstrate the skill of both players).
I can easily think of things that have great viola solos (like the Smetana No. 1) and things that have great cello solos (like Borodin No. 2). But not things that have both.
(I thought of the Dvorak Cypresses, since they often repeat the melody, passing it around the instruments, but the cello sadly gets left out.)
Anyone have a suggestion?
The Dvorak American Quartet is marvelous for cello - so too is the Schubert C major quintet - if you can find a 2nd cellist. (Be warned that the published cello part uses both bass and treble clefs and the treble clef is to be read an octave lower, which can be mind-bending for many cellists, because they are also trained to play treble clef at pitch. However, parts transposed to tenor clef are available on line. (This use of treble clef was sometimes used in the 19th century - it is not a problem for keyboard players!)**
It's got to be this configuration, and specifically works for string quartet.
The only quartet that comes to mind is not romantic and the solos are rather short though there are several for both the viola ands the cello: Mozart quartet in F, K590, first movement. It is the last of the so called "Cello Quartets" and Mozart appears to have gotten bored with giving so much to the cello, so he let the viola in on the fun.
Lydia, look at other Dvorak quartets, as he is a genius in writing well for inner and lower parts. A pity that the Schubert C major quintet doesn’t qualify.
I second the Dvorak quartets. We were just reading Opus 51 and there's lovely writing for the lower strings.
How about Grieg No. 1, first movement?
Schumann A Minor perhaps.
I would check the Faure. The last movement in particular.
I also think the Brahms and Mendelssohn Opus 12 and 13 quartets tend to have a lot of juicy parts for everyone. Brahms is really hard to pull off w/out a lot of rehearsing (but worth it IMHO); Mendelssohn less so. Check out the first or last movement of Brahms Opus 51 #2; the second movement of Brahms Opus 51 #1, the Canzonetta (2nd movt) of Mendelssohn Opus 12, and the first movement of Mendelssohn Opus 13.
It isn't easy is it? I expect it was uppermost in the mind of the better romantic composers that their string quartets should be a conversation between equals.
I second the First movement of Mendelssohn op 13.
I'd prefer sub-10 minutes; the shorter the better, and preferably it wouldn't require a ton of rehearsal time, since this is effectively a gate -- an audition that has to be passed, completely distinct from any future repertoire to be performed.
Haven’t heard Verdi for a while, but would bet on that. A great cello solo in the Trio, and a fair bit of evenly-distributed counterpoint that allows the violist to show what they can do.
There's also the Kreisler (I'm listening to it on YouTube at this very moment - Pugnani/Lanner it's not!).
Does anybody know of any fugal movements in the repertoire? Maybe Mendelssohn op. 13 slow movement; the middle part is a fugue and would expose all four players along the way. I'd think it would clock in below 10 minutes but it is quite long for a slow movement.
"Wouldn't require a ton of rehearsal time" ... that pretty much rules out Janacek. I always considered Mendelssohn string quartets as firmly grounded in the classical tradition.
My daughter suggests the first movement of Brahms no. 3. (Really nice viola part in the third movement too.)
If you don't have a ton of time I'd stick with the first movements of Mendelssohn Opus 13, Borodin 2, or Dvorak (the American, although overplayed, is the most obvious choice because most chamber musicians have at least read it and so you can spend more time polishing – the late Dvorak quartets are really hard and Opus 51 is lovely but tricky to pull together on not-much-rehearsal time.)
Albrecht asks about fugal movements. Schumann tended to write fugal stuff, but I can't remember his quartets well enough to identify any movement in particular.
Fugal? If you don't need Romantic, there is the Mozart K 387 finale. Not too juicy for the individual players, though.
Again, as fugal movements go, I pointed out the fourth movement of Laura Valborg Aulin's F major quartet, which has fairly long fugal passages. It's on IMSLP. And the rest of the quartet is worth preparing for a performance at some point in the indeterminate future.
Well, if you're prepared to class Beethoven as romantic for this purpose, there's the Grosse Fuge! If you were to accept a Mozart Fugue, there's K546! But I'm not sure that either meets the requirement that Lydia presents us with.
(Borodin 2 is GREAT, but it doesn't give the viola (or the 2nd) that much to do)
The requirement is three works, one of which must be presented in full. The works must be of contrasting periods and styles.
Would a middle period Beethoven be considered Romantic? Certainly the Op. 59 quartets, particularly #1 and #3 are fairly equally divided among the players in terms of times to shine. The 3rd movement of #1 is about as romantic as it gets...
Karl, I heard a professional quartet playing that quartet and was not satisfied with their slow movement. Those 'cello rising arpeggio-type solos weren't noticable until the last 2 notes of each (When my family were studying it, I made my brother really pound them out). Beautiful vibrato, but the whole arpeggio needed to boom out.
Regarding the Razumovsky Quartets (Beethoven Op. 59) I've played those recently and the last movement of No. 3 is that devilishly fast fugue -- but it does open with the viola. I also played the viola part of the Brahms No. 3 (it's a big stretch for my technique, I had to fake a few things) but it's very lovely, I second Stan's daughter on that one! It's also complex. If you can pull off that quartet, you're going to win ANY amateur competition.
That's an interesting question. I usually prefer not to walk the line on allowable repertoire, though.
Are the judges string players? Will they be cutting off the group in the middle of each piece?
In this post-pandemic era, the audition is by video, so the works will have to be recorded in whole. The judges are usually a mix of instrumentalists. Last I recall the audition slots ran 45 minutes per slot.
The cutoff between Classical and Romantic at the Fischoff is 1810, so there the Razumovsky quartets and Ghost trio are considered Classical and Serioso can be allowed in either (1810), but with the additional stipulation that you need approval if something else you submit in a different category was composed within 12 years of the other piece.
To add to Frieda's suggestion, the Glazunov Novelettes spread the love to the viola and cello pretty well.
The Third Brahms quartet is a big viola show, perhaps the 3rd or 4th movement? The third is all viola, and the last is a theme and variation that gives everyone a little spotlight.
What did you end up deciding on, Lydia?
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