ELFRIDA ANDRÉE – The D Minor String Quartet

Swedish Romantic composer Elfrida Andrée [1841–1929] wrote just two string quartets – the one under discussion is in the key of D minor. This pleasing Late Romantic work is in four movements.

It opens in an allegro tempo, in a stately manner, with characteristic long melodies and expressive harmonies. The first violin wanders freely through these harmonies, always retaining the stately nature. A solo sweep leads to a more expansive section, sparse at first but slowly rebuilding in character. The cello is prominent in the background as the violin becomes quite animated. Interestingly, the minor key does not seem to affect the nature, in this first movement at least, as the music is mostly positive. Another violin sweep into the low register is powerful and dominating. A false ending leads to some pizzicato chords to complete.

The second, andante movement again does not appear to be noticeably minor, but it definitely lacks the energy of the previous movement. Warm sounds begin and the first violin is quite prominent as it negotiates a pastiche of harmonies in an attractive manner. A pause leads to a further stately passage, although with a different texture to that previously heard. The cello has a warmth all of its own as the violins streak into their high registers momentarily, before returning to the prevailing feeling. Nearing the end, there is a sweep of a minor key nature, which concludes on a sustained tonally ambivalent chord.

The next movement evokes classic Romanticism and the opening is very lyrical. A move into a rhythmic motif is sweet but brief and the violins continue with rhythmically simple folk-like melodies. This folk nature persists into the next section which is performed in a conversational manner. The brief movement ends on a measured flourish.

Dramatic phrases commence the final movement, with the mood the most serious heard so far. Pulsing violin lines bring out a suggestion of the minor harmony, but soon mellow into another classic Romantic passage. Now the music turns spritely, with an optimism that is infectious and comes in waves – these are wonderful melodies that linger for a time and are developed beautifully. Near the end, the music becomes positively energised and leads to a bouncing conclusion.

Like most Romantic quartets, this is not profound music – it is more about simple, joyful melodies mainly in a light style. And just for the record, the composer is a woman!

The review CD, Elfrida Andree: Chamber Music, on the Caprice label, contains a selection of various chamber pieces. The quartet is performed by the Stockholm Quartet. This CD is available on Amazon UK.

The disc is on Spotify as Musik pa Hammersta slott and the quartet can be found on earsense and YouTube, where the four movements are scattered amongst many of her other compositions.

Listenability: Charming, melodic Late Romantic work.


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