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String Quartet in A minor CG 564 (Charles Gounod)




Allegro – Allegretto quasi moderato – Scherzo – Allegretto


Premiered on 27 February or in early March 1890 by the quartet(s) Nadaud (and/or) Laforgue, at the Société des Compositeurs (Salons Pleyel), this quartet is possibly the most personal of the five quartets  known today, and the most accomplished. The ideas in it are strong and concise without being terse and its energy never flags. Unaware that this quartet was preceded by the quartet in F major, Choudens published it under the title of No. 3. The Allegro begins with the bang of a slamming door, which forms the matrix of the main theme. At its height, the polyphonic agitation leads into the more relaxed second subject with long note values. The development is characterised by contrasting and intermeshing cells, blocks and dynamics. In the Allegretto, the muted strings and cello pizzicati falling like tears bring to mind Dante: “There is no greater sorrow than to recall happiness in times of misery”— the spellbinding sadness of the obsessively repeated quietly despairing motif keeps returning refrain-like either side of sunnier intervals. The Scherzo, a quasi-waltz, seems to emerge from the darkest depths. The rustic Trio keeps the pace up and the brisk tempo of its fugato revives the waltz. Charles de Lassus (aged two) suggested the fairly run-of-the-mill motif of the Allegretto to his grandfather. Gounod makes up for this with a bridge theme that is so graceful it could be mistaken for the second subject (which passes almost unnoticed). The tightly-knit development, which initially cultivates a certain tonal uncertainty, eschews the pulsating semiquavers which are kept for the recapitulation.

    Person - 1
  • GOUNOD, Charles (1818-1893)
  • Theme - 1
  • Musique de chambre – Le quatuor à cordes au XIXe siècle