A string quartet is a piece of music written for two violinists, a viola player and a cellist. It's also the name of the type of ensemble which plays music for these forces.
String quartets have been written since the mid-1700s, initially by Joseph Haydn. The form is interesting because of its constraints, and because each of the instruments is broadly similar and equally important. This has challenged composers ever since.
It can also be said that the string quartet forms the crux of the symphony orchestra. There is an old tradition of performing orchestral works with one instrument on each part. Music written for string quartet has often also been adapted and expanded for orchestra.
Ensemble. Propulsive Energy and Contemplative Interludes - Mike Wheeler listens to the Coull Quartet
Classical music news - Pacifica Quartet - The Pacifica Quartet returns as Don Michael Randel ensemble-in-residence at Chicago University
Classical music news. August 2023 Newsletter - Watch and listen to our August 2023 one hour video newsletter - The Creative Spark
Ensemble. Ear-catching Details - Mike Wheeler listens to Haydn, Ravel and Dvořák from the Tedesca Quartet
Ensemble. Another Case of Mendelssohn's Influence? - Mike Wheeler listens to Verdi and Borodin from the Victoria String Quartet at the Buxton Festival
Ensemble. Energising Freshness and Exuberance - Malcolm Miller listens to string quartets by three émigré Austrian-born composers
CD Spotlight. Quite Eclectic - Chamber music by Joachim Mendelson and Grażina Bacewicz, heard by Geoff Pearce. '... insight, commitment and verve.'
Echoes of Oblivion by Robert McCarney - More corn than gold
Echoes of Oblivion by Robert McCarney - Rough winds do shake
CD Spotlight. New and Refreshing - Geoff Pearce is impressed by the music of contemporary Swedish composer Britta Byström. 'There is a sincerity about this music that speaks directly to the soul.'
Echoes of Oblivion by Robert McCarney - Wanted: Digital or Analogue
Echoes of Oblivion by Robert McCarney - Behind the Wall of Sleep
Echoes of Oblivion by Robert McCarney - Randomness Run Riot
Echoes of Oblivion by Robert McCarney - Going for a Song
Ensemble. Absolute Brahms - Nineteenth century chamber music in Rome, heard by Giuseppe Pennisi
Ensemble. Precious Testimony - Giuseppe Pennisi listens to the complete string quartets of Dmitri Shostakovich
Echoes of Oblivion by Robert McCarney - Four by Four by Five fff
Echoes of Oblivion by Robert McCarney - A New Look and Format
CD Spotlight. Heartachingly Beautiful - Geoff Pearce is impressed by Dudok Quartet Amsterdam's performances of Shostakovich and Bacewicz. '... freshness and vitality ...'
CD Spotlight. Lifetime Favourites - Geoff Pearce listens to string quartets by Ethel Smyth and Frederick Delius. '... the recording ... is of pleasing quality.'
Ensemble. Poise and Command - Mike Wheeler listens to the Fitzroy Quartet
CD Spotlight. Exceptionally Pleasing - String quartets by Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges, heard by Gerald Fenech. 'The Arabella Quartet despatches these graceful cameos with aplomb, and the playing is immensely cohesive and consistently alive.'
Ensemble. The Complete Shostakovich String Quartets - Giuseppe Pennisi listens to Quartetto Prometeo in Rome
CD Spotlight. Immediate and Colourful - Geoff Pearce listens to Sebastian Fagerlund. '... probably definitive performances of these works.'
Ensemble. A Gesture of Defiance - Mike Wheeler listens to Haydn, Bartók and Schubert, played by the Iuventus String Quartet
Ensemble. Change of Perspective - Mike Wheeler reviews Sinfonia Viva's streamed performance from Chatsworth House in Derbyshire, UK
CD Spotlight. Górecki's Strings - Giuseppe Pennisi compares two recent recordings of Górecki string quartets. '... Quatuor Molinari has a more melancholic approach than the Tippett Quartet.'
CD Spotlight. Hallmarks of a Troubled Mindset - Patrick Maxwell listens critically to the Fitzwilliam String Quartet's Schubert. 'This CD holds within some extremely heart-rending, joyous and emotionally infused music, played by some wonderful individual players.'
CD Spotlight. Somewhat Disturbing - Thought-provoking music by Naomi Pinnock, heard by Geoff Pearce. 'The performances and attention to detail were impressive, which added to my enjoyment and comprehension of the music.'
CD Spotlight. Beethoven the Innovator - Cuarteto Casals plays a selection of Beethoven string quartets, reviewed by Giuseppe Pennisi. 'All of the highest quality.'
Ensemble. The Weather and The Light - Maria Nockin reports on Aleksandra Kurzak and Roberto Alagna's recital for 'Met Stars Live in Concert'
CD Spotlight. Full of Colours and Flavour - Giuseppe Pennisi listens to music from Sharon Isbin and the Pacifica Quartet. '... an original program and excellent rendering make very pleasant listening.'
Ensemble. Beethoven String Quartets - Giuseppe Pennisi attends two concerts marking this year's Beethoven anniversary
Ensemble. Collective Flair - Haydn, Bartók and Dvorák from the Zelkova Quartet impress Mike Wheeler
CD Spotlight. Coherent and Interesting - Music for string quartet by Lyell Cresswell interests Geoff Pearce. 'The Red Note Ensemble, a Scottish group specialising in new music, gives taut, precise performances, played with conviction.'
CD Spotlight. Adeptly Handled - String Quartets by Elgar and Delius, heard by Stephen Francis Vasta. 'From the soft yet unified opening attack, we know that the Villiers Quartet will serve the score well.'
CD Spotlight. Absolutely Superb - The Altius Quartet plays Shostakovich, recommended by Geoff Pearce. 'I hope that the Altius Quartet goes on to record the whole cycle, and perhaps the Piano Quintets and Trios as well. This is a very fine ensemble of exciting young musicians.'
CD Spotlight. Flaming Intensity - String quartets by Ullmann, Shostakovich and Laks impress Gerald Fenech. '... in this miraculous music you can also experience passion, hope, gratitude and the unlimited resilience of the human spirit.'
CD Spotlight. Truly Compelling - Three of Haydn's 'Sun' Quartets, enjoyed by Gerald Fenech. 'The renowned Chiaroscuro Quartet gives superlative renditions of these masterpieces, and with tempos, blend and balance superbly judged, refinement and subtlety are consistently to the fore.'
CD Spotlight. Elliptical Orbits - String quartets by British composers, heard by the late Howard Smith. '... the Kreutzer Quartet brings a faultless degree of unanimity and understanding to this selection of late twentieth century string music.'
Ensemble. Asking Better Questions? - Schubert, Barber, Beethoven and Shostakovich from the Brodsky Quartet, heard by Mike Wheeler
CD Spotlight. Stylistic Evolution - Béla Bartók's six string quartets, highly recommended by Gerald Fenech
CD Spotlight. Wonderful Advocates - Hindemith's complete string quartets, highly recommended by Gerald Fenech. '... each rendition is an endless source of pleasure, where precision and attention to detail are the consistent hallmarks of some breathtaking music-making.'
Ensemble. Something Rich and Strange - Mozart, Shostakovich and Beethoven from the Coull Quartet impress Mike Wheeler
CD Spotlight. Celebrity Bass - Music for strings by Domenico Dragonetti, heard by the late Howard Smith. 'John Feeney reveals double bass capabilities required of a symphony orchestra's lowest strings once in a blue moon.'
CD Spotlight. Vigorously Interpreted - Butterworth, Gurney and Warlock, heard by Gerald Fenech. '... the programme embraces all that is best of English song-writing in the initial phases of the twentieth century ...'
Ensemble. Magical Stillness - The Elias Quartet plays at Buxton, reviewed by Mike Wheeler
Ensemble. Changing Moods - Haydn, Sibelius and Beethoven from the Dante Quartet impresses Mike Wheeler
CD Spotlight. Tonal Beauty - The Carducci Quartet plays Shostakovich, recommended by Stephen Francis Vasta. '... you really couldn't improve on this issue as an introduction.'
CD Spotlight. Stunning Works - Music for string quartet by James MacMillan, recommended by Andrew Schartmann. '... expressive, virtuosic, and replete with subtle hues.'
CD Spotlight. Dedicated Advocates - Robert Still's four string quartets, heard by Howard Smith. 'Be prepared to be pleasantly surprised.'
CD Spotlight. Let It Be - The Beatles for string quartet, heard by Howard Smith. 'The four Wihan players ... give this disc their best shot.'
CD Spotlight. Clearly Inescapable - Gerard Schurmann's chamber music impresses Howard Smith. '... potent, consuming, thematically cogent and burning with zeal.'
CD Spotlight. Emotional Range - Shostakovich and Weinberg string quartets, heard by Andrew Schartmann. '... virtuoso passages leap off the page with excitement ...'
Ensemble. Suave and Polished - Mike Wheeler discovers the Heath Quartet
Ensemble. Thanksgiving and Transcendence - Giuseppe Pennisi listens to orchestral and chamber concerts at the Salzburg Summer Festival
CD Spotlight. An Incendiary Outcry - Shostakovich and contemporaries, heard by Howard Smith. '... little to quibble at ...'
DVD Spotlight. A Modern Orfeo - Music by Elodie Lauten, reviewed by Malcolm Tattersall. '... a pleasing half-hour chamber opera ...'
CD Spotlight. Often Spectacular - The American String Project, seen and heard by Patric Standford. 'The performers are undoubtedly superb ...'
Ensemble. Tremendously Exciting - The Dante Quartet at London's Wigmore Hall, reviewed by Bill Newman
CD Spotlight. Seductive Lyricism - Walton and Barber Violin Concertos, heard by Robert Anderson. 'Bowes is wonderfully convincing on all counts.'
CD Spotlight. Vital and Committed - Music for string quartet by Janácek and Dvorák , recommended by Robert Anderson. '... an outstanding disc ...'
CD Spotlight. Many Levels - Chamber music by Mozart and Smetana, heard by Howard Smith. '... judged to perfection ...'
CD Spotlight. Poignant Sounds - String quartets by Peter Garland, heard by Patric Standford. '... remote and apparently disengaged ...'
CD Spotlight. Thoughtful and Elegiac - String quartets by David Matthews, recommended by Ron Bierman. 'The performances do full justice to the music.'
Ensemble. Mix-and-match - Ensembles from the Royal Northern College of Music, heard by Mike Wheeler
CD Spotlight. Matchless Artistry - The Wihan Quartet plays Dvorák, recommended by Howard Smith. '... the finest of bravura chamber performances.'
CD Spotlight. Clear Tonal Focus - Music for cello and piano by Krzysztof Meyer, recommended by Patric Standford. '... fine playing ...'
CD Spotlight. A Vigorous Spirit - Music by Matthew Taylor, heard by Patric Standford. '... skill and personality in equal measures ...'
CD Spotlight. A Worthy Introduction - Song cycles and chamber music by Gareth Walters, heard by Patric Standford. '... deserves a firm place in the CD library.'
Most Welcome - The first edition of two Elgar movements for oboe quartet, reviewed by Robert Anderson
Ensemble. Real Poise - Sinfonia Viva at the Buxton Festival, enjoyed by Mike Wheeler
Flowers of Light - Puccini's 'I crisantemi' as a pedagogical tool for piano performance majors, by Heidi Lowy
Ask Alice - A clear case of power play, with classical music agony aunt Alice McVeigh
CD Spotlight. Grandest Lines - Donald Tovey's cello concerto, heard by Robert Anderson. '... satisfyingly masterful.'
CD Spotlight. A Shattered Mirror - Paganini caprices arranged for string quartet, heard by Howard Smith. '... technically cluttered.'
CD Spotlight. Rhythmic Interplay - Music by Babbitt and Feldman, heard by Patric Standford. '... fresh and striking ...'
Ensemble. A New Path - Music by Oliver Rudland, heard by Robert Anderson
A Vision of Shostakovich's String Quartet No 8 - A poem by J Jean Mayfield
Ensemble. Beautifully Expressive - The Isolani Quartet, heard by Mike Wheeler
CD Spotlight. Lovely Accounts - Chamber music by Robert Schumann, heard by Howard Smith. '... the performances suffer from a worrying anemia ...'
CD Spotlight. Diverse and Interesting - Music by John A Carollo, heard by Ron Bierman. 'Only partly my cup of tea ...'
CD Spotlight. Impressive Singing - Vocal and choral music by Cecilia McDowall, heard by Patric Standford. '... attractive, lyrical and sometimes forceful ...'
Ensemble. Brisk Ebullience - Lawrence Budmen sends a second report from this summer's Tanglewood Festival
CD Spotlight. Deft and Brilliant - Sibelius orchestral music, recommended by Robert Anderson. '... in the safest of hands.'
CD Spotlight. Impeccable Technique - Beethoven's middle string quartets, heard by Robert Anderson. 'The outer movements induce some grinding of teeth.'
CD Spotlight. Perfection of Ensemble - Beethoven's early string quartets, heard by Robert Anderson. '... no excuse for the near-supersonic velocity ...'
Ensemble. Especially Successful - Gillian Wills reports from the Australian Fesival of Chamber Music
CD Spotlight. Faultless Performances - Beethoven from The Nash Ensemble, welcomed by Howard Smith. '... a class of its own.'
Ensemble. An Immensely Successful Event - Thomas Bielinski reports from the West Cork Chamber Music Festival 2009
Ask Alice - When to put up and shut up, by classical music agony aunt Alice McVeigh
CD Spotlight. Deceptive Naturalness - Red Priest's 'Nightmare in Venice', entertains Howard Smith. '... irrepressible, chic ...'
CD Spotlight. Extrovert Optimism - Piano music by Benjamin Lees, recommended by Patric Standford. '... a pleasant surprise ...'
CD Spotlight. Expressive Beauty - Chamber music by Marjan Mozetich, enjoyed by Howard Smith. '... "Hymn of Ascension" stood out for its power and cogency.'
CD Spotlight. Virtuoso Duo - Performances by the Elaris Duo, recommended by Malcolm Tattersall. '... all the passion, drama and integrity one could want.'
CD Spotlight. A Healthy Revival - Choral music by Randall Thompson, enjoyed by Howard Smith. '... performances and recording are exemplary throughout.'
CD Spotlight. A Broader Canvas - Chamber music by Sibelius, enjoyed by Robert Anderson. '... fresh and unfamiliar music, put across with such conviction ...'
CD Spotlight. Engagingly Heartening - Choral and orchestral music by Arthur Honegger, enjoyed by Howard Smith. '... strikingly performed by Welsh forces ...'
Record Box. Imperious Assurance - String Quartets by Brahms never cease to surprise Robert Anderson
Ensemble. Excellently Contrasted - Mike Wheeler listens to tenor saxophonists Don Weller and Bobby Wellins, backed by a rhythm section and a string quartet from Sinfonia Viva
CD Spotlight. Emotional Extremes - Malcolm Arnold string quartets, reviewed by Ron Bierman. 'I recommend savoring the Maggini's outstanding advocacy ...'
CD Spotlight. Cool fusion - Chamber music by David Baker, reviewed by Malcolm Tattersall. 'Baker's slow movements are all gorgeous ...'
Ask Alice - On string quartets, advertising, cellists and fame, with classical music's agony aunt, Alice McVeigh
CD Spotlight. Editor's choice? - Schumann string quartets, reviewed by Robert Anderson. 'I could wish indeed that the music had puzzled them more.'
Record box. Graceful charm - The Talich Quartet plays Mozart, reviewed by Ron Bierman
CD Spotlight. Speaking extravagantly - The string quartets of David Stock, appreciated by Ron Bierman
Record box - Young music. Early quartets by Arriaga, with Basil Ramsey