Claude Debussy  (1862 – 1918) String Quartet, in G Minor, Op. 10 (1893) 1 Anime e tres decide 2 Assez vif et bien rythme 3 Andantino, doucement expressif 4 Tres modere The Quartet was dedicated to the Ysaye Quartet which gave the premier performance in Paris on December 29, 1893. String quartet players are both excited by the Debussy quartet but also saddened in that he only wrote one, as the quartet presents a new and novel approach to quartet writing. Not only is the harmonic language new and voluptuous, building on  “Prelude a l’apres midi d'un faune” composed the year before the quartet, but also the whole notion of the “string quartet” as an ensemble was changed.  Instead of being a group of four compatible players meshing together to create a cohesive and well understood sound, Debussy presents them in differing combinations with an array of musical ideas and processes that create fleeting exciting new textures, where vistas are ever changing and there is a fluid and constant alteration to the musical development.  This approach to composition was becoming a feature of Debussy’s musical style and results in an elusive aural experience.  With the regular four movements in a conventional order and structure it bears all the hallmarks of a traditional quartet, but inside, the quartet is radically new.  The harmonic palette is wide ranging with new scales, unconventional chords and tonal progressions.  There is an ever changing, complex and new rhythmic spontaneity and vitality. At first it might seem that there is a” free for all” of musical ideas but this is a very tightly wrought work.  The very opening notes of the first movement make up a melodic fragment that is the germ for the whole piece.  Elements are transformed, combined, varied, repeated and changed to create a wide range of musical colours, passages and structures that pass by fleetingly throughout the piece.  The notion of unifying a piece with common material was not new.  Berlioz, Franck and later Grieg (in his string quartet) had all tried this, but Debussy uses the musical germ to develop new ideas as well as more conventional development, so it plays both an overt and subliminal role in the piece, linking movement together to create a cyclical piece.  It is a wonderful although challenging piece to play, requiring total commitment, but rewarding players every time. The first movement introduces the musical germ at the start and then passes through a myriad of disguises and instrumental combinations to create a range of colours and musical images before the climactic ending. The second movement uses the musical germ but now varied as an ostinato against pizzicato effects which develop into exciting cross rhythms. This in turn is overwhelmed by a murmuring idea with a new variant theme eventually leading to the finale, which dissolves into the ether. A slow third movement in an A-B-A format follows but again the material emanates from the opening musical cell of the first movement. The last movement builds on all the ideas that Debussy has used in the piece.  Several elements are recalled and pass by fleetingly, hurriedly moving on to the finale where the original motif is glimpsed for a last time, bringing the quartet to a close.
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Claude Debussy  (1862 – 1918) String Quartet, in G Minor, Op. 10 (1893) 1 Anime e tres decide 2 Assez vif et bien rythme 3 Andantino, doucement expressif 4 Tres modere The Quartet was dedicated to the Ysaye Quartet which gave the premier performance in Paris on December 29, 1893. String quartet players are both excited by the Debussy quartet but also saddened in that he only wrote one, as the quartet presents a new and novel approach to quartet writing. Not only is the harmonic language new and voluptuous, building on  “Prelude a l’apres midi d'un faune” composed the year before the quartet, but also the whole notion of the “string quartet” as an ensemble was changed.  Instead of being a group of four compatible players meshing together to create a cohesive and well understood sound, Debussy presents them in differing combinations with an array of musical ideas and processes that create fleeting exciting new textures, where vistas are ever changing and there is a fluid and constant alteration to the musical development.  This approach to composition was becoming a feature of Debussy’s musical style and results in an elusive aural experience.  With the regular four movements in a conventional order and structure it bears all the hallmarks of a traditional quartet, but inside, the quartet is radically new.  The harmonic palette is wide ranging with new scales, unconventional chords and tonal progressions.  There is an ever changing, complex and new rhythmic spontaneity and vitality. At first it might seem that there is a” free for all” of musical ideas but this is a very tightly wrought work.  The very opening notes of the first movement make up a melodic fragment that is the germ for the whole piece.  Elements are transformed, combined, varied, repeated and changed to create a wide range of musical colours, passages and structures that pass by fleetingly throughout the piece.  The notion of unifying a piece with common material was not new.  Berlioz, Franck and later Grieg (in his string quartet) had all tried this, but Debussy uses the musical germ to develop new ideas as well as more conventional development, so it plays both an overt and subliminal role in the piece, linking movement together to create a cyclical piece.  It is a wonderful although challenging piece to play, requiring total commitment, but rewarding players every time. The first movement introduces the musical germ at the start and then passes through a myriad of disguises and instrumental combinations to create a range of colours and musical images before the climactic ending. The second movement uses the musical germ but now varied as an ostinato against pizzicato effects which develop into exciting cross rhythms. This in turn is overwhelmed by a murmuring idea with a new variant theme eventually leading to the finale, which dissolves into the ether. A slow third movement in an A-B-A format follows but again the material emanates from the opening musical cell of the first movement. The last movement builds on all the ideas that Debussy has used in the piece.  Several elements are recalled and pass by fleetingly, hurriedly moving on to the finale where the original motif is glimpsed for a last time, bringing the quartet to a close.