VOLKMAR ANDREAE – String Quartet No. 2

Swiss Late Romantic composer Volkmar Andreae [1879–1962] wrote two string quartets. The Second Quartet is in four movements and I found the inner movements — the second and third — to be quite intriguing.

The work opens with a flourish which leads immediately into a gentle passage. The flourish is then repeated, however this time the music moves into a more assertive phase, which is extended. This is a fascinating section as a violin leads the music into some interesting ambient and rhythmic moods. The alternating is sometimes influenced by brief forays into a minor tonality. The rhythmic sections tend to predominate, with the violin pushing the ensemble along. A folk-like theme is constantly re-examined and the cello sometimes makes solo statements, which are quite special. The ambient moods are usually in the minor tonality, and are a little abstract. Nearing the end, the writing becomes orchestral and dramatic, producing a full sound.

The second movement commences with a slightly pulsing ensemble as a violin investigates a wispy melody. A minor texture unfolds and the violin continues to apply melodic variations. The mood strengthens as the cello comes into play. This music has a feeling that I can’t quite fathom. It is mostly very sparse, and there is something intangible about it, as it works its way to a conclusion.

The next movement is the longest of the work. A throbbing viola and cello set up a harmonic background at a moderately slow tempo. The violin is majestic as it traverses this musical environment. A cello interjection only serves to deepen the feeling. Now a strong passage ensues and then fades to nothing. The opening pulsing returns and the violin is marvellous over a sparse pizzicato moment. Another change brings about an intensity that thus far has not been heard in the piece; again it is of an orchestral nature. A pause returns us to the opening sensitivity and the mood is very deep emotionally. The violin is now ever so quiet but beautifully melodic as it negotiates its way to the finish. This is a wonderful piece of writing.

The finale is energised as the ensemble provide a folk-like background; positive melodies abound. This is pure Romanticism that has much impetus. The violins are jaunty until a slight mood change leads to a lessening of the dynamics. This is only brief and the ensemble comes back strongly with a firm conclusion to this short movement.

The review CD, titled Volkmar Andreae – String Quartets, performed by The Locrian Ensemble of London on Guild Music is available on Amazon UK and US. The disc is on Spotify and both quartets are on YouTube and earsense, which also lists an early quartet that is unknown to me.

Listenability: Very positive, rhythmic Romanticism.


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