Archive for March 2nd, 2011

The Well-Tempered String Quartet was published in Germany in 1936 and in the United States in 1938. The book’s title may remind the thoughtful reader of the title of Johann Sebastian Bach’s eighteenth-century collection of preludes and fugues, The Well-Tempered Clavier. The reader would be correct in drawing such comparisons, as stated in the Translator’s Note: “The ‘Well-tempered’ of the English version was chosen after much deliberation, for its manifold appropriate implications, and with a thought of homage to the Father of Music and his ‘Forty-eight.'”

The book begins with descriptions of the joys of playing music, and potential ways in which a string quartet might come into being. The authors playfully remark upon readers’ potential doubts regarding the formation of string quartets, before reminding readers that all members of string quartets must meet one another somehow. Next are various descriptions of the temperaments that could be expected in each of the members of the quartet (a cellist, violist, and two violinists). Notably, each member of the quartet has somewhat of a secret ambition to be the star of the group. The authors have a great deal of fun elaborating on the likely personalities of string quartet members, before finally bringing readers to the conclusion that while each player may have a pet ambition, their strengths and weaknesses complement one another.

The authors go on to discuss at length practice techniques, performance tips, and ways to deal with various quartet-related problems that may arise (what to do if a member is absent, for example). This book is surprisingly cheerful and humorous, and provides quite a few interesting and/or useful suggestions for musicians who have any interest in quartet-playing.


Source:  Aulich, Bruno and Ernst Heimeran. The Well-Tempered String Quartet. Trans. D. Millar Craig. New York: The H.W. Gray Co., Inc., 1938. Print.

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