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String Quartets

Op. 44
(Leipzig: Breitkopf & Härtel, [1838])

Irving S. Gilmore Music Library

quartet opus 44
Mendelssohn was renowned throughout Europe for his abilities as a pianist and organist, but these were not his only instruments. He received a thorough training in violin and viola, and Zelter said that he might become a great violinist. As an adult, he focused his energies elsewhere, but he continued to play chamber music, (occasionally in public), most often as a violist.

By Mendelssohn’s time, the string quartet was the most important genre of chamber music, thanks to Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, and others. Mendelssohn was well aware of this imposing legacy, and while still a teenager he added a masterpiece of his own, the Quartet in A, Op. 13 (1827), which is both strongly individual and deeply influenced by Beethoven (whose late quartets were still quite new). In 1837, while on his honeymoon with Cécile Jeanrenaud, Mendelssohn began a set of three quartets in his mature style. They were later published as Op. 44, with a dedication to Crown Prince Oscar of Sweden.