Emanuel Aloys Förster: Six String Quartets. Op. 7

Edited by Nancy November
Recent Researches in Music of the Classical Era, 99
A-R Editions, Inc.
xx+226pp
$240.00

These six four-movement works (in A, F, D, B flat, G and E flat major respectively) were dedicated to Friedrich Wilhelm, the cello-playing Prussian king who had inspired Mozart and Haydn to write music for him. Förster (eight years Mozart’s senior) was a multi-talented musician, teaching keyboard and musical theory in 1780s Vienna, while playing violin and viola in chamber music ensembles (having been an oboist in the Prussian army earlier in his life!)

After a quick opening movement, the tempo lessens for the second, then a menuetto-trio pairing leads into a lively finale. In fact, these are essentially what by that date had become standard Viennese string quartets. For much of the time the 1st violin dominates, though the cello (as mentioned at the beginning of the review) does regularly take the limelight, and the middle parts – though largely harmonic in function, with some neat figuration – are occasionally also allowed to join in (or even lead) the conversation.

The scores are elegant and spacious without being dominated by white space. As there is no need to worry about page turns, some of the layout seems a little random to someone (i. e., me) who spends his life typesetting music (such as turning a page for a single system of a trio, which then requires a turn back of two pages), but since these scores are for study and not conductors or players, such considerations (and observations) are perhaps irrelevant?

The Authentic Quartet have recorded Förster’s three quartets, op. 21, for the Hungaroton label but I have not been able to locate a version of these six works – now that they have been neatly edited (and A-R Editions do sell performing materials for the set) someone can rectify that situation.

Brian Clark