Quartets Between Classicism and Romanticism
A close look at the many composers in Beethoven’s shadow always brings rewarding listening
experiences to light – and Bernhard Molique’s string quartets are no exception to this rule. cpo has released six of his eight published quartets – currently no longer available for purchase but someday to be rereleased in a complete box with this month’s new single CD. This new disc featuring the Quartets opp. 42 and 44 once again demonstrates why it is that Molique’s string quartets qualify as masterpieces situated between classicism and romanticism. He composed both opus numbers in England, where he resided between 1849 and 1866. His concert performances as a virtuoso brought him thunderous applause, and on one such occasion Queen Victoria herself honored him with her presence. His own compositions were also received very well in London, no doubt because the English then had a certain fondness for works of conservative stamp. Molique was interested not in showy effects but in substance – a fact reflected in the unchanging movement titles of his quartets. In this connection it is not really all that surprising that he did not emulate his teacher Louis Spohr by writing
quatuors brillants with virtuosic violin parts that would have served as promotional vehicles for his artistry. It was not his goal to be fashionable. However, with his Quartets opp. 42 and 44 he perhaps simply wanted to »score« with the English public. This perhaps explains the resemblances to Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy’s quartets in clear audible evidence here. On the one hand they are surely obliged to the taste of their times; on the other hand they very well may have been intended as a
tribute. Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, who traveled through England ten times, was regarded as a towering genius there even after his death. His popularity was at its zenith when Molique wrote his quartets.