The Slipped Disc daily comfort zone (160): Best string quartet of 1935

The Goldschmidt work I love and cherish the most is a quartet he wrote on arrival in London as a Hitler refugee, a work that was first performed in a music-loving doctor’s waiting room on Harley Street.

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  • Too much artificial “busyiness” not any soaring lyrical, melodic sections. I can see why it is a rarity. Sorry.

  • Fine as it is, is it really better than the Bartok fifth? It received its world premiere by the Kolisch Quartet in 1935. Aha — it was written in August and September, 1934 — you’re off the hook!

  • Walter Piston’s Quartet No 2 dates from 1935; memorably recorded by the Budapest String Quartet and others since. Michael Tippett’s first quartet also dates from 1935, and it is a fine piece. Between turmoil in Europe and the Depression, perhaps not a surprise that these young composers turned to quartets as an avenue of expression that had a decent chance at being performed.

    • That was also Martha Coolidge’s heyday in commissioning quartets and conducting her chamber composition competitions. (She commissioned Bartok’s fifth, among many others.)

  • Bartok is a strong contender. I hoped Shostakovich might settle the matter, but he didn’t write his first quartet until 1938, probably for reasons David nelson suggests for some other composers, but under shadow of official disapproval of his symphonies and opera.

    He locked his most dangerous work, the fourth symphony, in a drawer for 25 years until Stalin’s death in 1953. His fifth, nearly as dangerous, was popular after Mravinsky premiered it, and could be disguised (or misunderstood,as it still is in some quarters today).

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