Ravel String Quartet in F
There is perhaps no other pair of quartets ever written that are so closely associated as Claude Debussy's String Quartet in g and this piece, the String Quartet in F by Maurice Ravel. Both are considered to be among the greatest impressionist works eve written; both quartets are the only one written by thier respective composer; both employ new textures and sonorities never before seen in the string quartet. These works foreshadowed the breakdown of tradition that would later characterize the Modern Period.
Ravel wrote this quartet in 1803, around the same time that he
failed to win the coveted Prix de Rome for the fourth time.
His constant failure to win this composers' award probably stems
from his revolutionary methods in melody and harmony; he was not
conservative enough to satisfy the judges. Instead, he found favor
with the musical circles within Paris, who generally supported his
Hear the Entire Piece
Movement 1 | Movement 2 | Movement 3 | Movement 4
Recorded: in the TJHSST Auditorium on August 5, 1999
Violins: Justin Chen, 1st; Emily Schelstrate, 2nd;
Viola: Sean Hardesty;
Cello: Sarah Poulsen;
Scholars generally agree that Ravel's quartet, written some ten years after Debussy's, was clearly patterned after it. Both works are cyclic - that is, they constantly use and reuse themes and motifs across movements. However, the similarity between the two works is only one of formal structure; in terms of material or style, they are completely different beasts.
The difference between the two quartets is established right from the start: the Debussy begins with an agitated, driving theme played in unison, while the Ravel begins with a calm, rhythmically even theme played over a gentle F major scale in the cello. Another difference between the two is that Ravel's quartet is actually written along more traditional lines, in terms of ways in which he develops his themes. This is ironic considering the fact that Ravel never won the Prix de Rome mainly because of his revolutionary musical style; even more ironic considering that Debussy had won the prize at the age of 22.
One of the most remarkable aspects of this quartet is the way in
which Ravel uses the element of texture. Throughout the piece, the
music goes through numerous textures, such as shimmering tremolos,
resonant pizzicatos, and suspenseful trills. The harmony also
contributes to the mood, as bared octaves and fifths create novel
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