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The String Quartets of Anton Reicha

by Ron Drummond

Anton Reicha

Introduction

The twenty-three string quartets of Anton Reicha / Antonín Rejcha (1770-1836) are completely unknown today. As near as I can determine, with only three exceptions Reicha's string quartets were not performed publicly in the 20th century – and, without exception, they were not commercially recorded.

At the dawn of the 21st century, this situation remains unchanged.

I am convinced that the absence of Reicha's quartets from the repertoire seriously impoverishes our understanding of the evolution of the string quartet – that's how significant Reicha's quartets are.

Beginning in November 1997, I began to actively collect copies of the published (but long out of print) string quartets of Anton Reicha – not an easy task. After considerable effort, time, and expense, I have managed to acquire parts for 17 of Reicha's 20 published quartets, with the remaining three still to come.

What follows are "Four Soundings" of Reicha's quartets. The first, "Journal of a Restoration," describes a series of string quartet readings in the summer and fall of 1998, in which a half dozen of Reicha's quartets were played. The second, "Rejcha to the Players," is a monologue from a work in progress, in which I imagine Rejcha's words to the members of a string quartet ensemble struggling through a first reading of his Grand Quartet in C Major. The third sounding, "Program Notes for a Performance of Antonín Rejcha's C Minor String Quartet," is based on the notes I wrote for the unfortunately short-lived Vranitzky String Quartet's concert performance of the Reicha in Seattle on 20 November 1998. And lastly, there is "A Short History of Anton Reicha's String Quartets."

These pieces are followed by three appendices: John Pastier's review of the Vranitzky Quartet's performance (posted to the Czech/Slovak Music Society Discussion List, where many of my journal entries were first posted), a note on Reicha's name, and a discussion of Czech Classicism.

I welcome your comments, corrections, and questions, and any suggestions you might have as to how I might realize my central goal of furthering the performance and recording of Anton Reicha's extraordinary string quartets. Enjoy.


Four Soundings

  1. Journal of a Restoration
  2. Rejcha to the Players
  3. Program Notes for a Performance of the C minor String Quartet
  4. A Brief History of Anton Reicha's String Quartets

Appendices

  1. Vranitzky Quartet Debut, review by John Pastier
  2. A Note on the Names
  3. Czech Classicism: The Sweat of the Brow

Entire Contents of The String Quartets of Anton Reicha
Copyright © 1998, 1999, 2000 by Ron Drummond

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