in E minor, op 83

Elgar at the piano
A quartet in three movements for two violins, viola and cello:
1 - Allegro moderato; 2 - Piacevole (poco andante);
3 - Allegro molto.

Approximate Length : 30 minutes
First Performance :
Date : 21 May 1919
Venue : Wigmore Hall, London
Performed by : Albert Sammons, W H Reed - violins;
Raymond Jeremy - viola; Felix Salmond - cello
Dedicated to : The Brodsky Quartet

Elgar first set about composing a String Quartet in 1907 but put it aside when he embarked with determination on his long-delayed First Symphony. It appears that he subsequently used themes intended for this earlier quartet in other works, including the symphony. When he eventually returned to the genre, it was to compose an entirely fresh work.

The String Quartet was the first of three chamber works that he tackled in 1918 in the peaceful surroundings of Brinkwells, the country cottage that Lady Elgar had found for them in the depth of the Sussex countryside. Following the delivery of a piano to Brinkwells in mid-August of that year, however, Elgar tempted fate a second time by putting aside the quartet, firstly to compose the Violin Sonata and then to make a start on the Piano Quintet . Fortunately, he resumed work on the quartet in October 1918, taking it forward to completion by the end of the year.

Elgar was himself an accomplished violinist, having played in various chamber ensembles in his youth. The quartet combines the skills thus acquired from those days with a high level of compositional inspiration. The outer movements display a vigorous dialogue between the four instruments, in contrast to the dream-like quality of the central piacevole. Lady Elgar likened this movement to "captured sunshine" and the allegro molto to the "galloping of stallions". This should not be read to imply a deeper programme for the work, simply that Elgar had captured the atmosphere and spirit of the woodlands around Brinkwells that were his inspiration for the work.

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