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String Quartet No 1 in G minor, Op 27

'Grieg: String Quartets Nos 1 & 2' (CDH55299)
Grieg: String Quartets Nos 1 & 2
Buy by post £5.50 CDH55299  Helios (Hyperion's budget label)  
Movement 1: Un poco andante – Allegro molto ed agitato
Track 1 on CDH55299 [12'00] Helios (Hyperion's budget label)
Movement 2: Romanze: Andantino – Allegro agitato
Track 2 on CDH55299 [6'08] Helios (Hyperion's budget label)
Movement 3: Intermezzo: Allegro molto marcato – Più vivo e scherzando
Track 3 on CDH55299 [6'49] Helios (Hyperion's budget label)
Movement 4: Finale: Lento – Presto al Saltarello
Track 4 on CDH55299 [9'33] Helios (Hyperion's budget label)

String Quartet No 1 in G minor, Op 27
After busy years in Oslo, teaching and conducting to make a living, Edvard Grieg and his wife Nina left for Hardanger in 1877. In the course of a couple of years there he wrote several masterworks, among them the String Quartet No 1 in G minor. On hearing Grieg’s quartet, Franz Liszt declared: ‘It is a long time since I have encountered a new composition, especially a string quartet, which has intrigued me as greatly as this distinctive and admirable work by Grieg.’ The musical language is rather radical, and in many ways Grieg’s quartet is a bridge between the late Beethoven quartets and Debussy’s quartet, composed fifteen years after Grieg’s.

Working hard to find a thematic and formal framework, Grieg decided to build the whole quartet on the melody of his Ibsen song Spillemaend (‘Minstrel’, Op 25 No 1), which underlies all four movements. The opening motive (octave falling to major seventh then fifth) is also predominant in, among other things, the A minor Piano Concerto. This motivic core pervades the entire quartet, binding it together to form a composite whole, from the dramatic G minor introduction of the first movement to the entrancing final G major of the last. This conceptual unity in the shape of a cyclic melodic idea did not originate with Grieg—it was a technique often used by Liszt, for instance—but Grieg made more consistent use of it than was usual in chamber music at that time.

The thickness of sound in Grieg’s quartet is striking: it has an unorthodox richness of texture that verges on the orchestral, using fortissimo double-stopping in several instruments simultaneously. The composer has been criticized for this, but he himself said that his quartet was not designed to ‘peddle occasional flashes of brilliance’. He continues: ‘It aims at breadth, to soar, and above all at a vigorous sound for the instruments for which it is written.’ Furthermore, the quartet is unconventional in its markedly homophonic style, although there are polyphonic passages that prove that Grieg was also a master of this technique.

from notes by Erling Dahl Jr © 1999

Track-specific metadata
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Details for CDA67117 track 1
Un poco andante – Allegro molto ed agitato
Recording date
10 December 1998
Recording venue
St George's, Brandon Hill, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Andrew Keener
Recording engineer
Arne Akselberg
Hyperion usage
  1. Grieg: String Quartets (CDA67117)
    Disc 1 Track 1
    Release date: September 1999
    Deletion date: March 2006
    Superseded by CDH55299
  2. Grieg: String Quartets Nos 1 & 2 (CDH55299)
    Disc 1 Track 1
    Release date: August 2007
    Helios (Hyperion's budget label)
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