String Quartet in G minor Op.27

Composer: Edvard Grieg (b. 1843 - d. 1907)
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Composer: Edvard Grieg (b. 1843 - d. 1907)

Performance date: 28/06/2010

Venue: Bantry Library

Composition Year: 1877-8

Duration: 00:35:57

Recording Engineer: Anton Timoney, RTÉ lyric fm

Instrumentation: 2vn, va, vc

Instrumentation Category:String Quartet

Artists: Danish Quartet (Frederik Øland, Rune Sorensen [violins], Asbjørn Nørgaard [viola], Fredrik Sjölin [cello]) - [quartet]

String Quartet in G minor Op.27

I have recently finished a string quartet that I still haven’t
heard. It is in G minor and is not intended to bring trivialities to market. It
strives towards breadth, soaring flight and above all resonance for the
instruments for which it is written. I needed to do this as a study. Now I
shall tackle another piece of chamber music; I think in that way I shall find
myself again. You can have no idea what trouble I had with the forms, but this
because I was stagnating, and this in turn was in part on account of a number
of occasional works (Peer Gynt, Sigurd Jorsalfar and other horrors) and in part
on account of too much popularity. I have thought of saying ‘Farewell shadows’
to all of this – if it can be done.

Despite his
classically based studies in Leipzig and Copenhagen, Grieg had early become an
enthusiastic adherent to the cause of Norwegian romantic nationalism. He also
developed a life-long interest in Norwegian folk tunes and an ever-growing love
of his country’s wild, mountainous scenery. The Quartet was written during a
prolonged stay in the Hardanger district where both the mountains themselves
and their music became key influences in his composition.

There are few quartets with the sheer
sonic power of Grieg’s Quartet, a power that makes itself felt immediately as
the work’s defining motto theme is announced in unison in the slow
introduction. This distinctive idea is taken from a song – The Fiddlers – that he wrote two years earlier
and it re-appears in various forms throughout the piece. The driving first
subject proper has enormous latent power, while the second subject is a lyrical
version of the motto theme, so the two subjects are highly polarised in both
mood and texture. This makes for a dramatic development as the first subject’s
headlong momentum is continually being held back by the motto theme and the
massive repeated chords, which are another feature of this movement. After a
regular recapitulation, the movement ends with a highly atmospheric coda as the
cello plays the motto theme over a ghostly sul
from the other

The Romanze leaves the passion of the first
movement behind, opening with the cello leading the quartet with its
serenade-like theme. This relaxed idea is contrasted with another restless and
agitated subject and the movement consists of these two moods being contrasted
with each other, sometimes alternating, sometimes together. The Intermezzo with its intriguing play of
triple- and duple-time signatures brings us closer to the idea of Norwegian
folk-music. The central trio does indeed call up a Norwegian folk tune, which
is passed from instrument to instrument, this vigorous tune from the mountainy
men being set against another lyrical and reflective idea.

The finale reflects
the first movement with a slow introduction based on a fragment of the motto
theme, though its uncertain accents are banished by the Mediterranean gaiety of
a light-hearted saltarello. But the mountains of the North gradually re-appear
with all their Nordic passionate melancholy, dampening the southern joie de
vivre. Towards the end the main theme from the first movement violently asserts
itself before the final proclamation of the motto brings the work to a
thunderous conclusion.