String Quartet No. 2 in B major, Op. 24

Full Score

Parts (four PDFs in a ZIP file)

Audio rendering


This quartet was completed between April and June of 1996, although the Scherzo had been written in 1993 and the Finale had been hanging around for almost as long, trying to hold out for being implemented as a quintet or even as an antiphonal double quartet.

The work as a whole is a response to some of the obsessive and impulsive facets of the Beethoven quartets.

The first movement begins with a falling fifth, which is soon decorated by a pair of pickups, approaching the upper note from above and the lower from below. Much of the Quartet's material is derived from this motive. Rhythmically, the movement is a study in march rhythms. It contains not a single pair of straight eighth-notes; whenever a quarter is divided, it is into a dotted eighth and a sixteenth.

The Scherzo is tonally and dynamically volatile, touching the tonic as little as possible; its Trio, by contrast, hardly leaves the key.

The slow movement is in ternary form. The first section is couched in rich, grave, slow-moving counterpoint, in which the falling fifth of the first movement becomes a falling sixth. The middle section is a crescendo of dissonance over an obsessive rhythm, and the final section explodes abruptly into a huge climax on four downward plunges of the falling-sixth motive.

The Finale plays a tonal game with sharp- versus flat-side leanings, which can be seen in the score, but which is also heard, even if not consciously. The rising pickup from the first movement's motive is sharply emphasized at the end of the first phrase, and it generates the second theme. The exposition ends, and its repeat begins, with the opening chord, which now has a different tonal context and meaning. The same chord opens and closes the second half of the movement, which is also repeated. The outcome of the whole process is to re-establish the home key, even though the next-to-last note is out of the key.