MENDELSSOHN Felix, String Quartet in E minor Op.44, No.2
The last of Felix Mendelssohn’s string quartets was composed in August–September 1847 at Interlaken, a few months after the death of his sister, Fanny Hensel-Mendelssohn. Written as an instrumental Requiem in her memory, it was completed shortly before Mendelssohn’s own death. The first movement is defiant and agitated, while the Scherzo is most unlike Mendelssohn’s usual Scherzo style: this is earnest, dark and intense music. The deeply-felt Adagio is the emotional heart of the work, and the movement that is most obviously elegiac in character. The uneasy start of the finale, marked by syncopations and trills, finds moments of lyricism (including some self-quotations) as well as outbursts of anger. Few works in Mendelssohn’s output are so personal, and so overtly emotional. Though Mendelssohn heard the work played privately, the first public performance took place after his death. It was given in Leipzig by a quartet led by Joseph Joachim at a memorial concert on 4 November 1848 – the first anniversary of Mendelssohn’s death.
© Nigel Simeone