Philips - 3 LPs - 6703 029 - (p) 1971
Philips Duo - 2 CDs - 456 320-2 - (c) 1997
Philips - 37 CDs - 4578 8824 - (c) 2015


Long Playing 1 - 6500 107

Robert Schumann (1810-1856) String Quartet in A minor, Op. 41 No. 1
25' 30"

- Introduzione (Andante espressivo - Allegro) 9' 40"

- Scherzo (Presto) - Intermezzo 3' 40"

- Adagio 5' 54"

- Presto - Moderato - Tempo 1e 6' 16"

Robert Schumann String Quartet in A major, Op. 41 No. 3
32' 25"

- Andante espressivo - Allegro molto moderato 8' 26"

- Assai agitato - Un poco Adagio - Tempo risoluto 7' 05"

- Adagio molto
9' 45"

- Allegro molto vivace 7' 09"

Long Playing 2 - 6500 220

Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) String Quartet in C minor, Op. 51 No. 1
33' 23"

- Allegro 11' 18"

- Romanze (Poco Adagio) 7' 25"

- Allegretto molto moderato e comodo - Un poco più animato 8' 35"

- Allegro 6' 05"

Johannes Brahms String Quartet in A minor, Op. 51 No. 2

31' 48"

- Allegro non troppo 9' 15"

- Andante moderato 10' 09"

- Quasi Menuetto, moderato - Allegretto vivace 5' 12"

- Finale (Allegro non assai - Più vivace) 7' 12"

Long Playing 3 - 6500 221

Robert Schumann String Quartet in F major, Op. 41 No. 2
20' 51"

- Allegro vivace
5' 45"

- Andante, quasi Variazioni
7' 56"

- Scherzo (Presto)
3' 02"

- Allegro molto vivace - Più mosso
4' 08"

Johannes Brahms String Quartet in B flat major, Op. 67
38' 01"

- Vivace 9' 57"

- Andante 8' 40"

- Agitato (Allegretto non troppo)
8' 45"

- Poco Allegretto con Variazioni - Doppio Movimento 10' 39"

- Paolo Borciani, Elisa Pegreffi, violino
- Piero Farulli, viola
- Franco Rossi, violoncello


Luogo e data di registrazione
Théâtre Vevey, Vevey (Svizzera)
- 18-31 agosto 1967 - (Schumann, Op. 41 No. 1 & Brahms, Op. 51 No. 1)
La Salle des Remparts, La Tour-de-Peilz (Svizzera)
- 13-24 giugno 1970 - (Brahms, Op. 51 No. 2)
- 13-24 luglio 1970 - (Schumann, Op. 41 No. 3)
- 15-27 gennaio 1971 - (Brahms, Op. 67)
- 15-27 giugno 1971 - (Schumann, Op. 41 No. 2)

Registrazione: live / studio

Producer / Engineer
Vittorio Negri | Tony Buczynski

Prima Edizione LP
Philips | 6703 029 | 3 LPs | (p) 1971

Prima Edizione CD
Philips Duo | 456 320-2 | 2 CDs - 71' 55" - 75' 21" - (1°, 1-4, 5-8; 2°, 1-4) | (c) 1997 | ADD | (Brahms)
Decca | 478 8824 | 37 CDs - (33°, 1-4, 5-8, 9-12) | (c) 2015 | ADD | (Schumann)

Questa pubblicazione contiene l'Op. 41, 1 di Schumann e l'Op. 51, 1 di Brahms già edite nel 1968 (Philips 802 815).

It is an odd coincidence that Brahms and his friend and champion Schumann each published three string quartets, for where one might not have expected so many from Schumann, one would certainly have expected more from Brahms. Character perhaps had something to do with it, and Brahms’s restraint might be explained by hesitance while Schumann’s three could be attributed to enthusiasm.
Most of Schumann’s work can, in fact, be classified in periods which coincide with sudden enthusiasms and successive preoccupations. First and probably foremost he was a composer of piano music. Then in 1840 came the great flood of songs. The following year 1841 was the year of orchestral works. Chamber music followed in 1842, all three string quartets being written in June and July of that year.
To some extent this division of his work was the result of his consuming passion for Clara Wieck, daughter of his former music teacher and a brilliant concert pianist. The years of courtship were difficult and it was only after a long and bitter struggle against Clara’s father that he was able to marry her in 1840 - appropriately the year of his outburst of song.
But it was Clara’s particular desire (perhaps because she would rather be the wife of a successful composer than have him remain the husband of a successful pianist) that he should move out from the subjective, introverted world of his drawing-room music into the realm of “pure” music for the concert hall. And as Schumann’s wife she was able to give him the help and encouragement he needed.
There was more to it than merely composing, for Schumann was aware that his early training left something to be desired in his technical ability to handle the finer points of the traditional “grand” manner. That had to be overcome by study and this Clara and Robert did together whenever possible. The year 1842 found Robert studying in depth the string quartets of Haydn and Mozart and his enthusiasm was the final creative impulse which led to the Op. 41 quartets.
But it would be wrong to suggest that the idea of writing string quartets had never entered Schumann’s head before. As early as 1838 we find him confessing in his correspondence with Clara that “the piano has become too limited for me... In the works I am now composing I hear many things I can hardly express.” In 1839 his letters to his composer friend Hermann Hirschbach tell us that he was studying Beethoven’s late quartets and thinking of writing some himself that summer.
Whenever the seeds of the Op. 41 quartets were sown, it was in 1842 that they came to full flower. After preliminary sketches the first was begun on June 4 and before it was completed he began the second on June 11. The third was begun on July 8 and completed on July 22.
If any doubts remained in some people’s minds about Schumann’s true genius as a composer, the quartets helped to settle the matter. Mendelssohn, to whom the works were dedicated and who had previously tended to treat Schumann’s talent rather lightly in his good-natured way, was among those deeply impressed by their craftsmanship. The composer and theorist Moritz Hauptmann summed up Leipzig’s critical reaction in a letter to the composer Spohr: “At David’s (Ferdinand David, the German violinist, composer, and conductor) I heard three quartets by Schumann; his first, which delighted me a great deal, made me wonder at his talent, which I had regarded as not particularly outstanding, considering his previous piano pieces... there is no paucity of unusual ideas in content and form, it is cleverly conceived and constructed, and a great deal of it is very beautiful.”
What most pleased and surprised Hauptmann, who in 1842 became professor of counterpoint and composition at the new Leipzig Conservatory, was probably the contrapuntal nature of the quartets, particularly the first two. In them Schumann obviously found an outlet for the “new” sounds he was hearing and about which he had written to Clara in 1838: “It is remarkable how almost all my ideas now are canonic and how I always discover the imitating voices later, often in inversion or in changed rhythms... ."
OP. 41 NOS. 1 AND 2
The first two quartets (in A minor and F major), on which Schumann worked simultaneously for a while, can be considered together for they are similar in conception and form. The flanking movements in both are in sonata form and are astonishingly concise in their expositions: the brief, unassuming second subjects seem to evolve naturally from the main themes and the links between subjects are often underlined by juxtaposition in codettas or developments. ln No. 1’s finale, for instance, the second subject begins with an inversion of the first subject’s opening notes and in a novel recapitulation Schumann begins with his bridge, the main theme reappearing after the second subject. Another unusual feature of this finale is the use of what might be described as a “marker" passage - a musette-like drone on the cello with, above it, a rising diminished seventh on the viola which signals the start of the irregular recapitulation. In the coda we find a more extended musette passage in A major. Similarly in the F major quartet, both the first and last movements have passages which mark the end of the developments and eventually return in the codas - in the first movement a series of piano/forte contrasts and in the finale a sudden animato.
The song-like Adagio of the A minor quartet is preceded by a puckish scherzo whose theme was from a trio by Heinrich Marschner; Schumann later used it as an accompaniment to one of his songs. In the F major quartet the scherzo and trio form the third movement, the slow second movement being in the form of a theme and five variations skilfully balanced in mood.
OP. 41 NO. 3
In the third quartet, in A major, Schumann relaxes a little and allows himself more scope for the kind of romantic expression one expects of him. The sighing falling fifth of the introduction dominates the first movement and its inversion, a rising fourth, is the vital force in the scherzo.
The first movement is again concise but this time at the expense of the development instead of the second subject, which enjoys its full status. In the ingenious recapitulation Schumann drops his bridge and passes directly in the tonic to the second subject after a brief statement of the main theme which is recalled again before the coda in compensation.
The scherzo is no less unusual, consisting of four variations on a restless theme in F sharp minor. The third is a rocking Adagio so melodious that some commentators have suggested it is the actual theme making its first appearance. A powerful waltz, almost orchestral in texture, follows before a coda full of melodic and harmonic surprises carries the movement to a major close.
The boisterous finale plays Florestan to the  Eusebius of  the long expressive Adagio in D, worked out on a loose sonata-form pattern. The Adagio's coda lends its dotted rhythm to the finale`s rondo theme which alternates with two episodes before a gavotte-like “quasi” trio in F. Main theme, episodes, and “trio” theme are then recalled before a long coda which amounts to a terminal development of the rondo subject.

The fact that Brahms left only three string quartets and delayed publication of the first until 1873 when he was 40 years old was partly Schumann’s fault. For it was Schumann who first championed the younger composer and, indeed, regarded him as something of a musical Messiah. “This is he that should come,” he wrote to their mutual friend, Joseph Joachim, the violinist, meaning that he saw in Brahms a worthy heir to Beethoven’s throne. These sentiments he soon made public in his “Neue Zeitschrift für Musik” in 1853 when Brahms was only 20 and had not a published work to his name.
Right though Schumann’s predictions were, they placed an almost intolerable burden of responsibility on the young Brahms in living up to this glowing image. The result was a ruthlessly self-critical attitude toward his own work - particularly in the fields of the symphony and the string quartet, those areas in which Beethoven was supreme. This does not mean that Brahms lacked confidence in his own ability: being Beethoven’s equal and being a worthy successor were two quite different things. If he was afraid of his works being compared with Beethoven’s he was not afraid of the shadow of Beethoven itself - the Op. 51 quartets in particular constantly acknowledge Beethoven openly and frankly. Nor was he afraid of tackling string-quartet writing. We know from his correspondence that he wrote about 20 other string quartets before the C minor of Op. 51 - none of which passed his rigorous self-set standards, though many must surely have been masterpieces. The Op. 51 quartets, therefore, are not the first he wrote but rather the first he chose to let posterity hear.
Not that he was ever completely satisfied with them even after many years of shaping and polishing. When he began work on the C minor quartet is not certain, but it may have been as early as 1865 when we find Joachim writing to him to ask if a C minor quartet with which he was occupied was not yet finished for performance. Brahms’s publisher Simrock was also anxious for some quartets and in June 1869 Brahms wrote to him from Lichtenthal near Baden-Baden begging his patience and mentioning a possible rehearsal. The same month Clara Schumann recorded in her diary that she had heard two “lovely” quartet movements by Brahms, one of which was not quite to her taste. Whether Brahms was influenced more by what he heard in rehearsal or by Clara’s opinion is not clear, but the Op. 51 quartets in any event were held back for further amendment. Not until 1873 and two further try-outs did the composer put the two works resignedly in Simrock’s hands.
Both were dedicated to his friend Dr. Theodor Billroth, a Viennese surgeon and talented amateur string-player. Yet it seems odd that the dedication, of one at least, should not have been to his closer friend Joachim, particularly when the second quartet employs thematically the musical mottoes the two used at the height of their friendship - Joachim’s F A E, representing “Frei aber einsam” (Free but lonely), and Brahms’s F A F, “Frei aber froh” (Free but happy). This minor mystery is deepened by the fact that Brahms wrote to Billroth revealing the intention to dedicate one of the Op. 51 quartets to him. Brahms’s biographer Kalbeck formed the not unlikely theory that the composer withheld the Joachim dedication in a fit of ill-temper.
The third of the Brahms quartets was not so long in the making. It was completed in 1875 and published as Op. 67 the following year, with a dedication to Professor Engelmann of Utrecht. As in the Schumann quartets the third work is different in character from its predecessors. Having met the unspoken challenge of Beethoven within himself to the best of his ability in Op. 51, Brahms relaxes in a work of almost pastoral character which seems to draw its inspiration more from Haydn and Mozart.
OP. 51 NOS. 1 AND 2
The opening movements of both Op. 51 quartets are characteristically built from the smallest of thematic bricks. In the C minor’s sombre, almost tragic first movement significant motifs are combined to form short subject groups rather than longer well-defined themes. What might have been a similar tragic atmosphere in the A minor’s first movement is dispelled by a more traditionally lyrical second subject. But the immense power remains, lent by the terseness of the main theme; this opens with Joachim’s F A E motto (eventually fused with Brahms’s F A F in the coda) and provides ideal material for complex contrapuntal treatment which makes Schumann’s seem almost naïve.
Both slow movements, though rich and imaginative, are based on very simple ABA structures. The melancholic "Romanze" of No. 1 has two distinct themes, the second inescapably recalling the Cavatina of Beethoven’s Op. 130. The central section of No. 2’s A major slow movement is a minor-key developmental episode which opens vehemently with violin and cello in close canon against dramatic tremolos in the inner parts.
The scherzos do little to provide light relief. The F minor movement of the first quartet sidles along so warily and uneasily that the plodding pizzicati of the simple trio seem almost cheerful: that of the second, labelled Quasi minuetto, moderato is also in the minor and more scherzo characteristics are to be found in the trio (Allegretto vivace) in the major. Like a series of Chinese boxes this too has a central episode in which Brahms recalls the “minuetto” theme and ingeniously combines it with the trio theme in a canon four in two.
The short finales take their impetus from the scherzos and sum up their respective works both emotionally and thematically. Echoes of previous movements are found everywhere. In the C minor finale (in sonata-rondo form) the unison opening, for instance, has the same stabbing rhythm and final falling interval as the opening of the first movement while the actual notes are those which begin the “Romanze.” In the A minor rondo finale there are similar borrowings and one is not surprised to find one of the episodes featuring another fusion of the Brahms/Joachim mottoes. Basic form in both cases is freely adapted. In the C minor the development is merely a formal gesture, for the whole movement is one organic growth. The A minor is in three main sections, in which the rondo theme and episodes alike occur. One of the episodes, appearing first in C major, might pass for a second subject; in the central section this appears in F and makes its final appearance in A major. The main theme is developed in the course of the episodes.
OP. 67
The different character of Op. 67 is immediately apparent in the first movement where the basic sonata-form contrasts are rhythmic rather than melodic or harmonic. Brahms employs three subject groups this time (the second and third presented in the dominant and recalled in the tonic). The separate elements of the Haydnesque first and third groups have quite distinct rhythms which Brahms delights in playing off against one another.
The restful aria-like slow movement in F is again in broad ABA form with powerful double stops adding drama to the central section before the main theme re-emerges in a violin-cello dialogue.
The D minor scherzo, yet another in form only, is really a passionate outpouring by the viola with a muted accompaniment; this continues in the trio, opening in A minor, and rest comes only in the coda which soothes the ruffled rhythms and coaxes the music into a peaceful D major close.
The finale, again haunted by Haydn, is in the form of a theme and eight variations. Even so Brahms still manages to summarise the whole work as he does in Op. 51. In the seventh variation the opening theme of the first movement emerges and persists, with reminiscences of other movements, to the coda where it appears simultaneously with the finale theme in augmentation.

The "Ouartetto Italiano” is deservedly one of the most renowned quartets of our time. It was as long ago as 1945, soon after completing their studies, that Paolo Borciani, Elisa Pegreffi, Piero Farulli, and Franco Rossi, resisting the tempting promise of individual careers as soloists, decided to pool their youthful enthusiasm and musical talent and devote themselves to the difficult but satisfying art of playing chamber music really well. By 1947 the group had established a firm reputation in the musical press and begun giving concerts outside Italy. In 1951 they visited the United States for the first time, and it was soon apparent that their devotion to their music and the impeccable standards of performance they had set for themselves were earning them fame as well as satisfaction. Over the years since 1945 they have remained together, a rare example of  teamwork in music and something unique as far as quartets are concerned. Teamwork in performance, too, has contributed greatly to their success. Their principle of thoroughly memorising their music and playing wherever possible without scores has enabled them to perform with astonishing unanimity and a precision which is unequalled in their field.
To list the group’s wide-ranging activities in more than 25 years is pointless: they have done everything one might expect of one of the world’s finest quartets. They have given hundreds of concerts all over Europe and in the United States; they are regular participants in the chamber-music concours of many countries; and they have played and are in constant demand at such great music festivals as Salzburg, Prague, Venice, Edinburgh, Granada, Lucerne, and Aix-la-Chapelle. Outside the concert circuit the members teach chamber music at both the Royal Academy of Music in Stockholm and the Conservatoire in Vienna.
ln addition to the many words of praise bestowed on them  - after their first concert in New York, the distinguished critic Virgil Thomson of the “New York Herald Tribune” called them “the finest quartet unquestionably that our century has known” - they have been publicly honoured by the President of Italy as a more tangible recognition of their outstanding artistic services over the years to Italy in particular and the world of music in general