The String Quartet in C minor was composed in the winter of 1898 and first performed at the Oxford and Cambridge Musical Club on 30 June 1904. It is more than probable that it was not heard again until a performance by students at the Royal College of Music on 15 March 2002. It is in four movements, the last being a theme and six variations with fugal finale, and the writing for the quartet is extremely accomplished. The opening Allegro is Dvorák-ish in its lyricism, though there is a darker, more brooding atmosphere towards the close. It is tempting to detect a hint of folksong in the theme of the Andantino, played by the viola, but that would be stretching hindsight too far. The movement has a wistful melancholy that carries over into the Intermezzo, a song-like episode containing some of the most virtuosic writing in the work. The theme of the Finale is ballad-like with a suggestion of eighteenth-century elegance. Modality creeps in in the ‘Adagio’ variation and there is rhythmic exhilaration in the succeeding Presto. What can perhaps be most admired in this very attractive quartet is its conciseness. It gets straight to the point and, once having made it, leaves it at that.
from notes by Michael Kennedy © 2002