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Adagio for orchestral quartet

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Epigraph “Les fleurs pâles du souvenir” (“The pale flowers of remembrance”) from G. Vanor’s poem Nevermore.

Published in 1908 as Guillaume Lekeu’s opus 3, the Adagio for orchestral quartet is not, however, among the Belgian composer’s first works. The manuscript is dated 28 April 1891, which places it in the direct wake of the Piano Trio (January 1891) and the Piano Sonata (March 1891), two works Lekeu began while he was studying with César Franck. Franck’s death in November 1890 opened a period of grief for the young composer, during which he expressed his desire for filiation: “I do not want to be the pupil of any other musician than Father Franck,” he wrote at the time. One might therefore think that the Adagio for orchestral quartet’s painful lament fits into this framework, even though Lekeu’s correspondence remains silent on the subject. Like the Piano Trio, the score of this piece bears an epigraph by Georges Vanor: “Les fleurs pâles du souvenir” (“The pale flowers of remembrance”), which, in Nevermore, grow out of the “harmonious cries” of a grieving brother. The composer’s boldness can be seen in the scoring (four violin parts, two violas, two cellos, double bass and three soloists), the rhythmic alternations (in four, three or five beats) and the harmonic modulations (from C minor to A major). After the work’s posthumous premiere in 1894, at a concert conducted by Vincent d’Indy, the Guide musical marvelled, “The moving voices of the violin and cello rise masterfully over the orchestral texture, depicting a sort of funeral march.”



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