E. A. Förster: Six String Quartets, op. 16

Edited by Nancy November
Recent Researches in the Music of the Classical Era, 101
xx+306
A-R Editions, Inc. ISBN 978-0-89579-827-5 $260

It is only a matter of months since I reviewed November’s fine edition of the composer’s op. 7 quartets. Five of the pieces are cast in the four movement scheme, while the sixth lacks a Minuetto. Much of the introductory material is concerned with arguing against both contemporary and more recent criticism of the quartets (the former found them too heavy for polite entertainment, while the latter essentially laments the lack of more structural control – which could, of course, apply to music by anyone other than Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven!); even the most superficial of flicks through the volume argues against her assertion that the music is not dominated by the first violin, and although closer inspection does, indeed, reveal passages where the balance is more subtlely handled, it is surely by having to look for such things that the underlying truth of the accusation is confirmed. Whether or not the music is too expansive to support its own weight by its virtues will only be proven by period instrument performances and I would urge such a quartet of specialists to take up the challenge and support this venture in trying to expand the repertoire we hear in the concert hall. Since this is a reference volume, the placement of repeat signs a few bars after a page turn is not that important, but I feel it would be easier to gain an idea of the overall shape of a piece if the two things coincided and, in most cases, this would have been managed with a little typographical thought. Still, this is a fine piece of work, and I hope it will be rewarded by an up-turn in interest in Förster’s output.

Brian Clark