String Quartet in Eb

Allegro spiritoso
Adagio con moto
Menuetto, Trio
Allegro molto
    (18 mins)

First performance: uncertain

First modern performance 30 May 1982 London (Wigmore Hall)
by the Redcliffe Ensemble Susan Lynn, Paul Bucher, Csaba Erdelyi, Gillian Thoday

Wesley’s friend Vincent Novello said of him : “Samuel Wesley was one of the greatest musical geniuses that England has ever produced.” This is true. He was certainly the most important composer of the Georgian period in England, whose prolific output covered  every genre except opera. But Novello seemed unable to have any effect on the public taste of his day; so during his lifetime the composer was little performed or published, and after his death his music was disowned by Das land ohne Musik . By 1900 it was virtually unknown. Little is known of the String Quartet in E flat. Its date is uncertain; perhaps c.1810 or later. Where, when or if it was ever performed is a matter for conjecture, but what is known makes it highly probable. Chamber music was becoming increasingly popular in the early 19th century, and “Music Parties” were a feature of social life in the houses of the élite. The artist J.M.W.Turner depicts one such occasion in his watercolour “Music Party at East Cowes Castle“ (1830). Vincent Novello himself arranged some, and we may easily imagine that he would invite his friend Wesley to introduce his new quartet, possibly playing one of the violin parts.

The score for this work is available; and a full performance is available for download and on CD.

Study score ISMN M 708046 52 3

Parts ISMN M 708046 53 0


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Bochman String Quartet
Michael Bochmann, Mark Messenger (violins)
Helen Roberts (viola)
Peter Adams (cello)

III   Menuetto, Trio       (3’27”)
IV   Allegro molto         (2’26”)

The Menuetto is a witty scherzando  in G minor, closing at the half-way stage into B flat. The brilliance of the scherzando style is characterised by the plentiful use of cross rhythms, as well as the Haydnesque balancing of phrases of unequal length. Symmetry is restored in the Trio. Material from the Menuetto, such as the cadential phrase at bar 20, spills over into the Allegro molto of the rondo finale. The unifying factor of this movement is the characteristic chromaticism of the second thematic idea, which Wesley maintains throughout with a consistency of texture, velocity and brilliance.


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Wesley String
Quartet in Eb
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Wesley String
Quartet in Eb
score

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Wesley String
Quartet in Eb
parts

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