Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky

String Quartet No. 1 in D major, Op. 11

    Description by James Reel

    The young Tchaikovsky, barely surviving on his meager salary from the Moscow Conservatory, decided to raise a little money and call attention to his work in early 1871 by presenting a concert of recent compositions. The program was a great success; it consisted of several songs and piano pieces, and, written especially for the occasion, the String Quartet No. 1.

    The first movement, Moderato e semplice, takes traditional sonata form and features a fuller, richer development than Tchaikovsky generally had managed. The two songlike main themes are similar rhythmically and atmospherically, although the first is more anticipatory and the second is more of an outright serenade.

    The second movement, Andante cantabile, is one of this composer's most beloved creations and is often heard arranged for string orchestra as well as for any number of instrumental combinations. The first melody is a simple, melancholy folk song that Tchaikovsky is said to have learned from a carpenter in Kamenka. The second is original, very much a ballad initially sung by the first violin over the cello's descending, chromatic pizzicato notes.

    The scherzo, Allegro non tanto e con fuoco, is launched with a forceful theme that nevertheless skips to an almost dancelike rhythm. The movement's trio section is more frolicsome, but carries a harmonic tension that keeps it in line with the earlier material. The finale, Allegro giusto, unravels and re-weaves two themes. The first is much brighter and more celebratory than anything that has come before; the second, introduced by the viola, is lyrical and Russian, and its B flat tonality makes an arresting contrast with the D major material it follows.

    Tchaikovsky would write two further string quartets (and a one-movement student piece has also survived), but for most music lovers this Opus 11 work is the Tchaikovsky quartet, as melodic and emotive as the composer's popular orchestral scores.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Moderato e simplice
    2. Andante cantabile
    3. Scherzo. Allegro non tanto e con fuoco
    4. Finale. Allegro giusto

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2017 Solo Musica SM 241
    2017 Urania WS 121321
    2016 Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler PH 16070
    2016 Deutsche Grammophon 4795982
    2016 CAvi-music AVI 8553160
    2016 CuGate Classics CGC 009
    2016 CRD Records CRD 3501
    2016 Harmonia Mundi HMU 907665
    2015 Alto 6006
    2015 Atoll ACD 214
    2015 ABC Classics ABC 4811776
    2015 Deutsche Grammophon 4794646
    2014 Oehms Classics OC 874
    2013 Alto MCSCD 2024
    2013 Deutsche Grammophon 002894791924
    2012 Ligia Lidi 030222711
    2012 Camerata Records CAM 28236
    2012 Melodiya MELCD 1001972
    2012 Alto 1196
    2012 Helicon Classics HEL 029639
    2012 Onyx / Onyx Classics ONYX 4090
    2012 MDG / Zebralution
    2010 ABC Classics 4763931
    2010 Brilliant Classics 93998
    2010 Decca
    2010 Berlin Classics 0016502
    2010 Apex
    2010 Decca
    2009 Denon Records
    2009 DA Records / Zebralution
    2009 X5 Music Group 15618
    2009 Bella Musica / Zebralution
    2009 MDG 9031575
    2008 Cobra Music 0024
    2008 Regis Records 1238
    2008 Bella Musica / Zebralution
    2007 Elatus
    2007 Telarc Distribution 80685
    2005 Deutsche Grammophon 000488202
    2005 Deutsche Grammophon
    2005 Music & Arts CD1181
    2005 EBS 6123
    2002 Challenge Classics 72106
    2002 Supraphon 3644
    2001 Cedille Records 56
    2001 EMI Music Distribution 57144
    2000 Masters of Art 93802
    2000 Sonora 22575
    2000 Naxos 550847
    1999 Claves 509116
    1999 Harmonia Mundi RUS788101
    1998 Testament SBT1119
    1997 Calliope Approche 6202
    1997 Doremi Records 7701
    1997 London 452614
    1995 Collins Records 14502
    1995 Deutsche Grammophon
    1995 Deutsche Grammophon 445551
    1995 Orfeo 316931
    1995 BIS 642
    1995 Testament 1061
    1993 Teldec 4509-90422-2
    1993 Dorian 90163
    1993 Nimbus 5380
    1990 Decca 4255412
    Deutsche Grammophon UCCG 50079
    Vox 3024
    Chandos 9871
    EXT 3017
    Collins Records 1237
    Olympia (Classical/Jazz) 521
    Excelsior Recordings 014
    MCA Classics 10228
    High Definition Classics 14
    EMI Classics 49775
    Sony Music Distribution 57654
    Nimbus 5711/2
    Analekta 9954