Movement 1: Sostenuto – Allegro vivace e grazioso
Movement 2: Allegro scherzando – Più vivo – Minore da capo sin' al fine
Movement 3: Adagio
Movement 4: Allegro giocoso
In 1903 Grieg wrote to the Leipzig publishers Peters: ‘You probably remember me mentioning an unfinished string quartet? I had intended to finish it, but these last years have brought so much, both physically and spiritually, that I wasn’t motivated to proceed with this cheerful work—quite the opposite of opus 27. But I hope to find the long-sought tranquillity and inclination this summer.’ Then in 1906, just a year before his death, he wrote to Brodsky: ‘If only I could at least finish the string quartet for you!’ In 1907, at the time of his death, there were still only two movements and some sketches for the rest. The following year Grieg’s Dutch friend, Julius Röntgen, acquired the manuscripts from Grieg’s wife, Nina, and edited the first two movements for Peters.
Röntgen also arranged a special ‘premiere’ of the String Quartet in F major in his home. In a letter to Nina Grieg, dated November 1907, he wrote: ‘You should have been with us last evening! We played the quartet. It was strange to sit there and realize that now it was being heard for the first time, and that Edvard himself never got to hear it. But now you must hear who made up the quartet. It was unusual. Harold Bauer, the great pianist, played first violin and really did a fine job. Pablo Casals played second violin and held the violin between his legs just like a cello. I played the viola, and Mrs Casals played the cello in a remarkable way. All four of us were filled with the greatest excitement—with my wife as the only audience!’
Subsequently, this unfinished quartet was not often played publicly, but in 1996 the Chilingirian Quartet performed it during a tour of Norway. Visiting Bergen, Levon Chilingirian had an opportunity to visit the Grieg Collection and see the original manuscript and sketches. He noticed several changes that Röntgen had made in his edition. Since then, Mr Chilingirian has re-edited the first two movements and made performing versions of what was written of the third and fourth movements. This version is as close as we can get to what Grieg intended.
from notes by Erling Dahl Jr © 1999