The String Quartet No. 1 in A major, Op. 4, from 1896 was the first work that the young Alexander von Zemlinsky showed the elderly Brahms. Brahms was so impressed by the quartet that he recommended it to his publisher Simrock. One can understand why Brahms was impressed. Not only is Zemlinsky's first quartet a remarkably self-assured piece of work for a 25-year-old composer, but it is written in a style that Brahms would have found highly congenial, the conservative Romanticism he himself espoused. The formal structures of the outer movements are clearly based on Schubert and middle-period Beethoven while the inner movements are intermezzos in the manner of Brahms. The opening Allegro con fuoco is laid out in sonata form with three themes, a development builds to a stormy climax, and a recapitulation restates the three themes in transposition. The following Allegretto is modeled on the third movement of Brahms' Symphony No. 2 with the outer sections marked Im volkston (In the style of a folk song) and the central section a rushing Presto. The following slow movement echoes the pomp of Wagner's Die Meistersinger in its stately progress. The closing movement is the most overtly Brahmsian both in melodic shapes and its rhythmic intricacies.
Description by James Leonard
- Allegro con fuoco
- Allegretto - etwas schneller als früher (6/8 Prestissimo) - Tempo di allegretto
- Breit und kräftig
- Vivace e con fuoco
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