Alexander von Zemlinsky

String Quartet No. 1 in A major, Op. 4

    Description by James Leonard

    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.


    1. Allegro con fuoco
    2. Allegretto - etwas schneller als früher (6/8 Prestissimo) - Tempo di allegretto
    3. Breit und kräftig
    4. Vivace e con fuoco

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2018 Passacaille PAS 1050
    2015 Chandos CHAN 10845
    2014 Naxos 8573088
    2007 Deutsche Grammophon 4777358
    2002 Chandos 9772
    2001 Challenge Records CC72040
    2001 Stradivarius 33564
    1998 Praga 205107
    1998 Nimbus 5563
    1995 Camerata Records 99
    Deutsche Grammophon 427421
    Ars Musici 5076
    Le Chant du Monde LDC2781130