Kodaly Quartet: Vincent D'Indy String Quartet 2 in E Major

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String Quartet No. 2 by Vincent D'Indy. Performed by the Kodaly Quartet.

I. Lentement - Anime - 00:00
II. Tres anime - 11:27
III. Tres lent - 15:54
IV. Lentement - Tres vif - 26:51

d'Indy saw his Quartet No. 2 in E Major as stemming from the lessons of Franck's string quartet but attempting something of a different order. Here the motto is not a fully formed theme, as in the first quartet, but a four-note germ that engenders virtually all of the material. The procedure has precedents in Franck's Prélude, Aria et Finale and in his Prélude, Choral et Fugue, and it resembles the organic process that Sibelius employed in his later symphonies.

The four-note motto appears at the head of the score, notated in semibreves. Its intervallic design is the same as one used repeatedly by Mozart, most significantly in the finale of the Jupiter Symphony. In view of d'Indy's opinion of Mozart, borrowing from that source is doubtful. More likely the motto is a fragment, taken either deliberately or unconsciously, from Gregorian chant. In similar fashion to the first quartet, the second begins with a slow introduction that presents the motto in various aspects. A fugal treatment leads to the appearance of a manly, determined first subject. After the supple second theme is stated, development begins before the end of the exposition. The formal development is relatively short and favours the first subject. Throughout there are complex motivic relationships not readily discernible beneath the apparent spontaneity: in d'Indy's music rigorous logic does not preclude inspiration. The remarkably free scherzo, occupying second position, is dominated by a rhythmically brisk theme in mostly quintuple metre: the trio, heard twice, provides contrast in 6/4 time. Based on three melodic elements, the serene slow movement has a Beethovenian eloquence. The finale is constructed with sovereign mastery, and its youthful ardour is entirely representative of d'Indy. After a brief introduction consisting solely of the motto, the first subject appears over an accompaniment in the viola; it is derived from an inverted form of the motto. A related, scurrying idea forms the second element of this first subject group. After the lyrical second theme is announced, what follows is a classical sonata-form development and recapitulation with one significant deviation. Before the reprise the motto theme in slow tempo heralds the return of the fugato subject from the opening movement's introduction, but in inverted form. At the end of a rapid coda, the quartet concludes with a single, emphatic restatement of the motto.

On the occasion of its première on 5 March 1898 by the Quatuor Parent, d'Indy's second quartet was judged a perfect success. The Guide musicale reported that the science of the young master was "allied magnificently to an inspiration of the first order," and went on to cite resemblances to Beethoven. Paul Dukas's initial impression in the Revue hébdomadaire praised the quartet's perfect mastery. In a second article, written after a study of the score, he was glowing in his elucidation of its formal plan and thematic relationships. Across the Atlantic in 1905, the Bostonian critic Philip Hale described the quartet as one of transparency and passionate beauty, with a power and a life capable of touching the heart as well as the mind. Thanks to his infinite ingenuity, d'Indy created a marvel of the quartet genre worthy of a place among the best, a masterwork that has been neglected for too long.