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String Quartet no. 2 in G major op. 153 (Camille Saint-Saëns)




1. Allegro animato – 2. Molto adagio – 3. Interlude et Final : Andantino – Allegretto con moto


Saint-Saëns composed his Second String Quartet from early summer 1918, and dedicated it to the publisher Jacques Durand and his father Auguste. Although “the perpetual torment caused by the latest events” (his words) hindered his work for a time, the quartet was completed in August. (It was to be premièred in the United States on 2 December 1919 by the Berkshire String Quartet). The venerable composer – he was eighty-three by the time he penned this quartet – expressed his joy: “I am very happy to have written a second quartet! Little man is still alive.” Almost twenty years after his E-minor First Quartet, Saint-Saëns wanted to produce a score that was easy to perform. But when the work was finished he found that not to be so; possibly he had been deceived by the work’s Mozartian clarity. The refined and mischievous initial Allegro animato, in particular, recalls in its  flavour the style of Mozart in his quartets dedicated to Haydn. Highly original in conception, the slow movement alternates between dark 4/4 adagio sections, with lines that are tortuous and chromatic, and 9/8 andantino passages that are more fluid and relaxed. Saint-Saëns jocularly admitted that he had introduced these episodes in triple time in order to prevent his slow movement “from being too boring”. The finale begins with a brief introductory “interlude”, played in trio, without the first violin. Listening to this introduction with its contrapuntal writing and its rather serious tone, little do we suspect the wit and whimsicality that are to follow in the rest of the movement. At the beginning of the Allegretto con moto, the first violin makes its entrance with a pizzicato in simple open fifths: this four-note motif, which is to return several times, serves as the basis for the main theme. Saint-Saëns was perfectly right in describing his finale as amusing and entertaining!

    Person - 1
  • SAINT-SAËNS, Camille (1835-1921)
  • Themes - 2
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