String Quartet No. 2
Scored for 2 violins, viola and cello.
Movements and Duration
There are four movements, totalling around 35 to 40 minutes in performance:
- Adagio—Moderato assai (F major, 226 bars)
- Scherzo. Allegro giusto (D-flat major, 285 bars)
- Andante ma non tanto (F minor, 211 bars)
- Finale. Allegro con moto (F major, 245 bars).
"Recalling the Christmases we used to spend in Moscow", wrote Modest Tchaikovsky, "I remember hearing him come up with the first theme of the first Allegro" . This would have been December 1873, and Tchaikovsky later remembered that work on the quartet went easily and quickly . The sequence in which the movements were composed can be determined from the rough draft of the score: the first movement (without the introduction), the fourth movement, the third movement (first version), the second movement, followed by the introduction to the first movement, and a second version of the third movement. According to the date on the manuscript, the rough draft was finished on 18/30 January 1874.
On 24 January/5 February, Tchaikovsky wrote to his brother Anatoly: "Now I've written a new quartet, and will hear it in a few days at a soirée at Rubinstein's" . According to Nikolay Kashkin's memoirs, this "domestic" performance took place "in N. G. Rubinstein's apartment... Besides the performers, who were F. G. Laub, J. Hřímalý and W. Fitzenhagen (I do not remember who played the viola, probably Yu[ry] Gerber), I think that only K. K. Albrecht, N. A. Hubert, myself and A. G. Rubinstein were present" .
The first public performance took place on 10/22 March 1874 in Moscow, at the second quartet concert of the Russian Musical Society The performers were: Ferdinand Laub and Jan Hřímalý (violis), Yury Gerber (viola), and Wilhelm Fitzenhagen (cello).
The Saint Petersburg premiere took place on 24 October/5 November 1874, with Leopold Auer and I. Pikkel (violins), I. Belkman (viola), and Karl Davydov (cello). Responding to a report on this successful performance he wrote to Modest Tchaikovsky on 29 October/10 November 1874: "I consider it one of my best compositions; none has flowed out of me so easily and simply. I wrote it almost in one sitting and I was very surprised that the public did not take to it, for I find that compositions written so spontaneously normally find favour" . Later he told Anatoly Tchaikovsky: "If I've written anything in my life that flowed spontaneously from the very depths of my soul, then it was the first movement of this quartet" .
An arrangement of the quartet for piano duet was made by Anna Avramova. Tchaikovsky wrote favourably of this arrangement to Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov . It appeared in print in September 1875 (by the publisher Pyotr Jurgenson), and in October the same year the individual parts of the quartet were published. The full score of the Second Quartet was issued in March 1876.
In 1955 it was included in volume 31 of Tchaikovsky's Complete Collected Works, edited by Anatoly Aleksandrov.
The quartet was dedicated to Grand Duke Konstantin Nikolayevich, who was the president of the Russian Musical Society.
Notes and References
- Modest Tchaikovsky, (1900), p. 423.
- See Letter 368 to Modest Tchaikovsky, 29 October/10 November 1874.
- Letter 336 to Anatoly Tchaikovsky, 24 January/5 February 1874.
- Nikolay Kashkin, (1896), pp. 97–98.
- Letter 368 to Modest Tchaikovsky, 29 October/10 November 1874.
- Letter 483 to Anatoly Tchaikovsky, 6/18 July 1876.
- Letter 417 to Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov, 12/24 November 1875.