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suggestions for quartet literature


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I just formed a string quartet. It is my first experience with this and I love it. We spent most of the evening running through the Mozart 16 Easys. They'll be fun for a while, but at some point I'd like to explore some other composers, but in some literature that is accessible to a group that finds the easys a full-sized challenge.

A lot of the quartet literature is way beyond us so I'm wondering if anyone can recommend some literature that is in the difficulty level of the 16 easys, but maybe from some other periods or other composers.

Any suggestions?

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Check out James Christensen's book "Chamber Music: Notes for Players" I don't always agree with his assessments (he's a cellist, and sometimes the violin parts are HARD in a quartet that he rates as easy), but he rates works as to Pleasure and Effort. You could look to see which quartets in his book have the same Effort rating as the ones your group is comfortable with, and that could give you some ideas.

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i'm gonna second violakev on this one...beethoven opus 18 is pretty awesome...i'm performing no.4 this coming saturday...and i played the dvorak american this past winter/spring....also you might try jumping right into ravel's quartet...but be warned...its a toughie...but great for learning what a quartet is all about.

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Theres the Irma Clarke String Quartets of the Baroque Era. I was told it was out of print, but I found it at a store one day, after searching for it for years. It must have been there for a long time. Very easy sightreading, and nice music for gigs. Might be even easier than the book you currently have, but at least its a collection of different composers (Corelli, Rameau, Handel, to name a few).

I think all quartets should have the Mozart Band II quartets (Peters edition) in their library. There are many quartets in there of varying degrees of difficulty, and also includes the flute and oboe quartets. The oboe and flute parts are in the Violin I book and can be covered by the first violinist.

I also second Beethoven Op. 18 quartets.

[This message has been edited by Earle29 (edited 08-09-2001).]

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Take a look at the Schubert quartets. Some of them are quite straightforward.

You don't mention whether you're looking just for sight-reading material or if people will spend some time practicing ahead of time. I suggest that the latter might allow you to tackle some more difficult literature.

The Dvorak American is NOT EASY. smile.gif If you find that manageable, you will probably find much of the literature is manageable.

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Originally posted by Stephen:

There's a lot of great Haydn out there, and some of the early ones aren't unconscionably hard.

You could try the theme and variations movement from the Emperor Quartet. I love playing the Haydn Quartets, but the first violinist in my quartet often complaines that they are more like a violin concerto with accompaniment than string quartets.

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Beethoven Op. 18: 1 and 6 (first movement) have been done by new quartets; 2 definitely has crazy 1st violin licks!

Early Haydn and Mozart: I like K. 156-158, especially that C major one. You can find Eine Kleine Nachtmusik in quartet form in the Peters Edition that includes K. 157. Sure it's not so early Mozart, but you'll have to learn it some day for the gigs that pay for buying all this sheet music!

Dvorak 6 (American) isn't always "easy," but the violist last year loved the spotlight! With the same group of players we also considered some Mendelssohn (I liked the E minor one written around the same time as the crazy D major one).

Shostakovich #8 and the long-winded Grieg G Minor are also possibilities. Or you could just go nuts with George Crumb's Black Angels. wink.gif

If you're interested in Beethoven, Haydn, or Mozart, www.cdsheetmusic.com is a good place to look. Their violin etudes CD only cost me $19 (at least 20 books of etudes/methods in it), and you don't have to worry about replacing entire sets when your ____ist loses his/her part.


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My quartet this summer at ENCORE performed Beethoven op. 18 #2 (G Major), and we initially thought it would be really easy to make it sound really good...But we discovered that the op. 18's are very very very difficult due to the absolutely mind-boggling amount of detail, not to mention insanely difficult first violin parts in some cases.

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I've gone through all the Haydn quartets (all eight million of them) and I feel like I am much better for it. Haydn really invented the modern string quartet form... by a set of his complete quartets, and then pick and choose movements that look possible, you won't be disappointed, and the level goes all the way up... as you grow as a quartet, Haydn will go with you.

American and Ravel are both pretty crazy suggestions for a quartet that's been reading easy Mozart... Go for it if you want, but I consider that very very advanced quartet work (at least to be played well... I'm also talking from experience, I've played vln 1, 2 and viola of both the quartets).

I just played Schulhoff's 2nd quartet... it's not too bad... got some tricky stuff, but everyone gets solos and it sounds really cool when you get it together.

Beethovens' and Mendelssohns' (some movements of each) would be good for a beginning quartet.

String Music from the Buroque Era (Clark) is a great series for a beginning quartet and is great for gigs.

It's been a while since I've coached a beginning quartet (although starting next week I will be) so I'm not sure what to recommend... what solo repertoire is your quartet doing? That might help us get an idea of what you can handle.

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Lymond has some good suggestions. I would not do Dvorak or Ravel. They will be much too difficult for a group playing early Mozart.

I would not underestimate the Beethoven op.18 either. Some of the runs in the outer movements are pretty tricky (I have played 1, 3, 4 and 6) and needs some serious looking. The rhythm in the no.6 (especially the slow movement and 3rd movement) are particularly difficult to sightread, not unless you are seasoned ensemble player.

Go with Haydn and early Mozart and get the feel for each other. Then try early Schubert, middle Mozart and if you feel adventurous, Beethoven op.18 (I would still stay away from no.2 and 6, though) Late Mozart is very difficult, especially for cellist.

Happy Rehearsing!


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