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String Quartet No. 1 in A minor (Reynaldo Hahn)




Andante molto moderato – Récit et chanson de Provence – Andantino – Allegro Assai


Composed in 1939, Reynaldo Hahn’s first string quartet, in A minor, was premiered on 1 January 1940 by the Quatuor Calvet. The work was clearly influenced by the revival of the quartet genre in France since World War One. Its allusion to ancient models also places it within an aesthetic movement characteristic of the interwar period, commonly described as “neoclassical”, whose leading exponents included Igor Stravinsky, Erik Satie and Maurice Ravel. The first movement, in sonata form, contrasts two opposing themes. The first, in A minor with an andante tempo marking, is introduced piano by the violin, then the viola, over a parallel chord accompaniment by the three other instruments. Based on an energetic dotted cell, the second theme is stated forte and allegro assai by the first violin. As well as alluding to the origins of the string quartet, the work also brings in references to an older musical past in the form of the instrumental dance suite, a typical genre during the French Ancien Régime. Consequently, its skipping rhythms bring out the Chanson de Provence’s similarities to a “Courante”, a bouncy dance which usually comes after the Allemande. Underpinned by a slower dotted figure, the Andantino brings to mind, albeit more obliquely, the “Sarabande”, the noblest and most solemn dance in the instrumental suite. Finally the Allegro Assai forms a merry rondeau recalling the lively rhythms of the first movement. Despite bearing the stamp of the aesthetics of its time, Hahn’s first quartet offers a synthesis between eclectic references to the history of music and a highly personal style gradually forged by the composer in earlier works, particularly in the field of chamber music.

    Person - 1
  • HAHN, Reynaldo (1874-1947)
  • Theme - 1
  • Musique de chambre – Le quatuor à cordes en France au début du XXe siècle