Haydn was the first creator of the string quartet.

It means the harmonizing and balancing of the four stringed parts, in a musical composition. Characteristically, a string quartet comprises of two violins, a viola and a cello.

Composers have to be competent enough to write quality string quartet music. They have to create the harmonizing parts, and all the parts have to compliment one another in all ways.

Most of the characteristics in today’s string quartet music were mainly developed during the 18th Century. Such characteristics include the musical intimacy between 2 to 9 instrumental ensembles players, with each playing a separate part of the piece.

Also, individual expression and group coordination cum communication between the players are highly emphasised in a quartet, with contrast to the relatively more rigid orchestral practices.

String quartet music features tuneful melodic lines. Traditionally, the violins have always been given the priviledge to play the beautiful and tuneful melodies, while the other instruments would provide repetitive chords or notes accompaniment to the violins.

During the Classical period, chamber music like this were mostly meant for music-lovers, whom usually indulged themselves in such music making for leisure, for pleasure and to socialize, whereby there might be or might not be a presence of audiences. The players would improvise and harmonise, on their own or as a group, as the music flows. It is just a way to have fun.

Chamber music had gained its popularity during some of the greatest composers' time. Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert were one of the many whom had written their own library of chamber compositions.

The string quartet emerges itself out of all the different chamber music configurations for a variety of reasons. Firstly, four-part harmonic blending it is traditionally thought to be a beautiful language. And string quartet, being a combination of four stringed instruments, fits perfectly well into this catergory. Secondly, stringed instruments are instruments which are most similar to the human voice in quality. Composers are then able to share emotions with just the plain music.

During his Esterhazy Court times, Haydn worked to developed the arrangement and versatility of the string quartet. And indeed, his efforts had attracted famous and popular composers like Beethoven and Mozart to join in the string quartet composition.

Haydn was an inspirational figure to both Mozart and Beethoven, especially in their early composing days. In 1785, Mozart had dedicated a collection of six quartets to Haydn.

Over times, string quartet music, an evolution of diversity of ideas, gradually gained its popularity and appreciation from all around. Even till today, string quartet music still holds its steady position and reputation in the classical music scene.

~ Written by Boon Sin Ler

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