Piano quartet in C minor, Op. 13
String quartet № 1 in G minor, Op. 27
Two romantics at the crossroads: the Piano Quartet by Richard Strauss, his last work in the traditional spirit, and the String Quartet by Edvard Grieg, written on the theme of a song about the choice between creative work and personal happiness.
When Richard Strauss wrote his Piano Quartet (1885), he was 21 years old. Strauss didn’t study at the conservatory, he received his knowledge by the old guild method “from hand to hand” – the secrets of the craft were revealed to him by relatives or mentors that they recommended. The tastes of his childhood and early youth environment were conservative. His father, a French horn virtuoso of national importance, raised him on the Viennese classics and Schubert; Mendelssohn, Schumann and Brahms were well approved; Wagner and Liszt were considered rebellious nihilists. The young Strauss’s own compositions were entirely in the traditional vein and the Piano Quartet was the last piece in this comfort zone. In the same 1885, Richard Strauss met Alexander Ritter, a composer and husband to one of Wagner’s nieces. Under Ritter’s influence, Strauss decided to change his style and join the poetics of the New German School. Moving to the camp of “rebels and nihilists”, Strauss abruptly cut off all ties with the music that his father personified for him, and later almost never wrote chamber music.
Edvard Grieg wrote his String Quartet op.27 in 1877-78. Grieg was 35 years old and he was in an identity crisis due to the loss of his parents and difficulties in his marriage. After leaving the capital in search of inspiration, the composer bought a house in a village around fjords in order to “comprehend the way of life of the Norwegian peasantry.” The quartet became his first work written in the new circumstances. After several unsuccessful sketches, Grieg decided to use as a theme-motto a melody from his recently written song “Musicians” on the verses of Ibsen. The text of the song tells that the artist must choose between his art and personal happiness.