The History of String Quartets
Posted on Feb 20 17
Considered to be the purest form of music, the string quartet consists of four string instruments, usually violins, viola and a cello which performed structured symphonies in the form of four movements. The violins play a higher note and melody while the cello provides the deeper rhythm. With the huge range of melodies and notes available to the string quartet, they have more in common with the sound of a full orchestra than any other musical assembly.
That being said, they differ greatly from orchestras in the sense that a quartet allows for greater freedom of expression than an orchestra. The quartet format encourages independent solos while the orchestra must adhere to strict direction from the conductor. With this freedom comes the ability for greater artist expression and a more ‘independent’ feel to each element of the quartet. The key to a great quartet is not playing in perfect unison, but rather using each instruments unique characteristics to come together in moments of melody while still remaining as an individual sound during the piece of music.
The Classical period was where the development of the string quartet came about and rose to the public interest. In this time, artists were focusing on creating a minimalist balance to their music that emphasised expression and communication amongst the other artists, creating a sound that was not as large as the traditional orchestra but still delivered an entertaining musical experience, thereby breaking away from what was socially acceptable and founding a new gene of stringed music that became the evolution of the stringed quartet that was to come in the centuries ahead.
The Early Pioneers
The ‘Father of the String Quartet’ is known to be Franz Josef Haydn. At around the turn of the Nineteenth century, Haydn formed the first quartet to be a multi-faceted string music arrangement. Haydn came upon his idea purely by accident when the composer was working for Baron Carl von Joseph Edler von Fürnberg in the years of 1755-1757 at the country estate in Weinzierl, Vienna. The Baron wanted some evening entertainment and Haydn rustled up all the players he could find, forming the first quartet.
It is probably sure that this is the quartet that inspired Haydn to write Opus 1, Numbers 1-6. The primary difference in the initial and later quartets are the five movements of the earlier pieces, being fast movement, minuet and trio I, slow movement, minuet and trio II, and a fast finale, finishing the piece.
The later works of Haydn, namely the 18 quartets of Opuses 9, 17 and 20, had been composed between 1769 and 1772 and they featured the modern form of four movements, namely; a fast movement, slow movement, minuet and trio, and a fast finale. This format fast became popular and was used by most composers all over the Western-European world.
Haydn, Mozart & Beethoven
It was at this time that this new revolution in music drew out the young talents of Mozart and Beethoven, who go on to become two of the most talented and prolific composers in music’s history and go on to inspire musicians for centuries to come. Mozart had met Hayden in Vienna in the 1780’s and both worked with one another, experimenting with what would become 23 quartets of written music, Mozart also wrote six quartets as a devoted inspiration dedicated to Haydn himself and the two used to gain much pleasure from playing impromptu string quartets with each other.
Beethoven also met with Haydn around this time and the two wrote music together in the late 1780’s. Haydn was actually Beethoven’s music teacher and when Beethoven was set to release his first Opus. The two eventually were involved in a professional argument over the credit on Beethoven’s first Opus. Haydn suggested that he give him credit on the work, as it would add to the potential success of Beethoven to mention that he was an associated student. However, Beethoven did not see it this way, claiming that Haydn was simply trying to ride on his artistic genius and claim credit where it was not due. It was over this dispute that the two then cut ties. Beethoven would continue his work in String Quartets for some time, writing 16 Quartets that are widely regarded as some of the best ever composed.
Composing into the modern era
The standalone nature of a String quartet and its elements mean that it is an incredible challenge for any composer and widely regarded as the ultimate test for a composer’s talent and skill. To make for a successful piece of music, the composer must write a competent creation that includes a range of sounds that have a harmonising balance that compliments each instruments individual sound.
The string quartet is by far the most popular evolution of chamber music, the music has kept the familiar organisation of its execution while managing to obtain magnificent harmony and balance between all four elements. The best composers have managed to express emotion through the music and are capable of producing the most astounding notes in a succession that can leave one breathless.
The popularity of the String Quartet began to wane at the start of the 1900’s, however, the 1960’s saw a rebirth of interest in the musical arrangement due to the culture explosion that took place in the Western world. This has led to the introduction of many new age composers that have released work that is incredibly memorable. Composers such as Arnold Schoenberg and Bela Bartok wrote incredible modern age adapted pieces and Johann Sebastian Bach wrote pieces such as ‘Air on the G String’ that inspired an entire generation of new composers. Today’s composers, such as the likes of Antonio Vivaldi are some of the most influential contemporary composers associated with String Quartets.
Great tips for hiring a String Quartet for your wedding reception, ceremony or Corporate Event
Being that String quartets are the perfect music choice for your next event or function, let’s look at some tips for hiring a Quartet that will bring great entertainment value to you and your guests.
It doesn’t matter if you are a professional planner, or just doing the organising yourself, the first place to start in finding the right String Quartet for your event is to look for an agent that offers an entertainment service. Choosing to work with a Quartet that operates independently can be risky if they default on the contract and don’t arrive, often you have no recourse against them and they could even not refund your deposit or payment.
Using a trusted entertainment service will ensure that you get a Quartet that turns up on time and delivers the classical music experience that you expected. Agents usually require contracts with terms to be signed and those contracts will have specific clauses as to what happens when they don’t perform as per the agreed terms.
Make sure that you arrange your booking well in advance. Try to give the agent or service at least three months’ notice and longer if you can. This gives them the opportunity to give you a solid confirmation of your booking and ensures that your event will go ahead as planned without any headaches occurring.
Give your agent or booking service a thorough description of your event and the theme you are using. This will help the Quartet in terms of planning the right performance to suit your occasion. Everything from the presentation of the artists to the selection of music makes a huge difference, so give them as much detail as possible and sit back and wait for the magic to be created for your event.
Points of note for your booking agent;
- Where is the venue located?
- How many people will be in attendance?
- What is the size of the venue?
- What is the theme of the event?
- What is the dress code?
- What do you expect from a String Quartet?
Professional agents and services, such as Earcandy entertainment will work with you directly to understand your needs and deliver you the best experience possible that provides you and your guests with the entertainment you need to make your next event a stunning success.
The Earcandy String Quartet experience
Earcandy has created the ultimate Classic and Modern String Quartet available to play at your next event. ‘Earcandy Strings’ brings a classic and refined feel to any event that gives your guests a relaxed, open environment that is conducive to conversation and will fit right in at any event from an executive luncheon to midday jewellery auction. The Earcandy Strings elevate any social environment and bring an edge that has a classy finish to a wedding ceremony or reception, or even a VIP cocktail party in the finest hotel.
The Earcandy Strings are a result of a carefully planned and well-orchestrated quartet of classical music experience that collides in a beautiful harmony of independent creativity that will inspire your guests and uplift your event in a way that is as unique and special as you are. Book the Earcandy Strings with Earcandy entertainment and put the finishing touch on your next event.