– Composer: Joseph-Maurice Ravel (7 March 1875 — 28 December 1937)
– Performers: Alban Berg Quartett
– Year of recording: 1984
String quartet in F major, written in 1903.
00:00 – I. Allegro moderato. Très doux
07:41 – II. Assez vif. Très rythmé
14:34 – III. Très lent
23:53 – IV. Vif et agité
The Quartet in F major was Ravel’s final submission to the Prix de Rome and the Conservatoire de Paris. The composition was rejected by both institutions soon after its premier on 5 March 1904 by the Heymann Quartet. The quartet received mixed reviews from the Parisian press and local academia. Gabriel Fauré, to whom the work is dedicated, described the last movement as “stunted, badly balanced, in fact a failure.” Ravel himself commented on the work, “My Quartet in F major responds to a desire for musical construction, which undoubtedly is inadequately realized but which emerges much more clearly than in my preceding compositions.”
As a result of major criticism and rejection, a frustrated Ravel left the Conservatoire in 1905 following what was later called the Ravel Affair. Ravel’s loss during the 1904 Prix de Rome and rejection from the Conservatoire de Paris catapulted his career not backwards but forward: a sympathetic public rallied behind his compositions and musical style. In 1905, Claude Debussy wrote to Ravel: “In the name of the gods of music and in my own, do not touch a single note you have written in your Quartet.”
Ravel’s string Quartet in F major stands as one of the most widely performed chamber music works in the classical repertoire, representing Ravel’s early achievements and rise from obscurity. On CD, it is often coupled with Debussy’s own string quartet. The quartet follows a strict four movement classical structure: Moderato très doux begins as a sonata form allegro, the following Assez vif-Très rythmé functions as the quartet’s scherzo, while Très lent acts as a contrasting foil. The last movement, Vif et agité, reintroduces themes from the earlier passages and ends with a striking finale.