String Quartet No. 3

Tchaikovsky Research

Tchaikovsky's String Quartet No. 3 in E-flat minor, Op. 30 (TH 113 ; ČW 92) was composed and scored in January and February 1876 in Paris and Moscow.


Scored for 2 violins, viola and cello.

Movements and Duration

There are four movements:

  1. Andante sostenuto–Allegro moderato (E-flat minor, 629 bars)
  2. Allegretto vivo e scherzando (B-flat major, 169 bars)
  3. Andante funebre e doloroso, ma con moto (E-flat minor, 134 bars)
  4. Finale. Allegro non troppo e risoluto (E-flat major, 360 bars)

A complete performance lasts around 35 to 40 minutes.


Tchaikovsky began to work on the quartet between 3/15 and 10/22 January 1876 in Paris [1]. On 26 January he returned to Moscow, from where on 10/22 February he wrote to Anatoly Tchaikovsky and Modest Tchaikovsky about his work on the quartet: "All my time... is dedicated to composing the quartet, which is already written but not yet scored" [2]. "I'm now working full steam ahead to finish the quartet which, you may remember, I began in Paris" [3].

The quartet was finished on 18 February/1 March 1876, according to the date on the manuscript score. Tchaikovsky's notes on the autograph indicate that originally the 'Andante funebre e doloroso' was meant to be the second movement, and the 'Allegretto vivo e scherzando' the third. It also appears that the composer made cuts in the first movement (12 bars after bar 210, 4 bars after bar 222, 12 bars after bar 511 and 4 bars after bar 521) around the time of the first performances in 1876.


See Andante funebre

The third movement was also arranged for violin with piano by Tchaikovsky in 1876, as Andante funebre.


The quartet was performed for the first time during a soirée at Nikolay Rubinstein's apartment on 2/14 March 1876 [4]. A further private performance took place at the Moscow Conservatory on 16/28 March 1876, with Jan Hřímalý and Adolph Brodsky (violins), Yury Gerber (viola), and Wilhelm Fitzenhagen (cello). The same performers gave the work its public premiere on 18/30 March 1876, at a concert in Moscow organised by Jan Hřímalý, and this was repeated at the second quartet concert of the Russian Musical Society in Moscow on 22 March/3 April 1876.

In Saint Petersburg the quartet was first heard on 19/31 October 1876, with Leopold Auer and Ivan Pikkel (violins), Ieronim Veykman (viola) and Karl Davydov (cello). The Kiev premiere took place on 23 March/4 April 1891 at the 1st RMS quartet concert, with Otokar Shevchuk and Shutman (violins), Yevgeny Ryb (viola), and Friedrich von Mullert (cello).

Other notable performances include:

  • London, Royal Normal College & Academy of Music for the Blind, 14/26 July 1877, Carl Deichmann (violin), Wiener (violin), Walter Hann (viola), Hugo Daubert (cello).
  • New York, Metropolitan Opera chamber concert, 8/20 May 1891.


In October 1876, Tchaikovsky worked at correcting the proofs of the quartet for the publisher Pyotr Jurgenson [5], and the full score appeared in print during November the same year. In 1955, it was included in volume 31 of Tchaikovsky's Complete Collected Works (1955), edited by Anatoly Aleksandrov.


Tchaikovsky's manuscript score is preserved in the Russian National Museum of Music in Moscow (ф. 88, No. 104) [view].


See: Discography


The quartet is dedicated to the memory of the violinist and quartet player Ferdinand Laub, professor at the Moscow Conservatory, who died in March 1875.

External Links

Notes and References

  1. See Letter 445, 10/22–11/23 February, and Letter 450, 3/15 March 1876, both to Modest Tchaikovsky, and also Modest's letter to the composer, 3/15 January 1877 — Klin House-Museum Archive.
  2. Letter 445 to Modest Tchaikovsky, 10/22–11/23 February 1876.
  3. Letter 446 to Anatoly Tchaikovsky, 10/22–11/23 February 1876.
  4. See Letter 450 to Modest Tchaikovsky, 3/15 March 1876.
  5. See Letter 504 to Anatoly Tchaikovsky, 14/26 October 1876, and Letter 508 to Karl Davydov, 18/30 October 1876.