Quartet No.3 Op.25

Composer: Egon Wellesz (b. 1885 - d. 1974)
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Composer: Egon Wellesz (b. 1885 - d. 1974)

Performance date: 26/06/2010

Venue: St. Brendan’s Church

Composition Year: 1918

Duration: 00:27:55

Recording Engineer: Anton Timoney, RTÉ lyric fm

Instrumentation: 2vn, va, vc

Instrumentation Category:String Quartet

Artists: Artis Quartet (Peter Schuhmayer, Johannes Meissl [violins], Herbert Kefer [viola], Othmar Müller [cello]) - [quartet]

Quartet No.3 Op.25

Wellesz was one of the lucky ones, despite being a well-known Jewish
composer and Professor of Music based in Vienna in 1938 he lived to
be nearly ninety.
Fates must have smiled on him for he was in Amsterdam for a
performance of his
by Bruno Walter on 13 March 1938 when Anschluss took place and was
warned not to return home. As one of the founders of the
International Society for Contemporary Music he was well-known
throughout Europe and was able to emigrate to England, where he got a
fellowship at Lincoln College Oxford.

is often thought of as a member of the Second Viennese School but,
like Zemlinsky, he managed quite early on to forge his own path
separate from that of Schoenberg although he participated in his
famous Society for Private Musical performances. Naturally when the
Nazis siezed power his music was forbidden and like many interwar
composers his place as a leading European composer was almost
obliterated. However he has over 130 works to his name including nine
quartets and nine symphonies although prior to his exile he was known
mostly as an opera composer. He was also a famed musicologist and one
the world’s leading authorities on Byzantine music.

Third Quartet was composed in the final months of 1918 just before
the final defeat

of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, timing that clearly influenced the
darkness of the work’s middle movements. However despite years of
brutal war with France, Wellesz seemingly had no problems about
turning to the works of Ravel and Debussy for some of his
inspiration, especially in his opening movement. This is an
exquisitely beautiful slow movement, built on two highly expressive
themes, one –
ausdrucksvoll –
and chromatic and full of yearning, the other –

a song of heartbreaking beauty. The whole movement has a dreamlike
quality that only bursts into the real world in its final bars,
preparing us for the
the next movement. This passionately turbulent movement unleashes
itself over a relentless ostinato. The central section continues at
the same unstoppable pace but with a calmer theme that unfurls
exquisitely over a richly textured accompaniment, very much in the
impressionist mode, until the terrible dance returns. The final bars
fairly explode with fury.

second slow movement is almost overwhelmed with mourning, alternating
stunned chorale-like chords with drawn-out solo recitatives that
speak only of loss and sadness in phrases of horrified beauty. This
drawn-out song of sorrow leads directly into an almost
inappropriately cheerful finale that has been described as
kind of contrapuntal gigue whose second tune is introduced in a witty

The first movement is recalled twice in rhapsodic impressionist
episodes, but the mood remains determinedly upbeat and ebullient.