Claude Debussy’s String quartet in G minor and Maurice Ravel's string Quartet in F major could well be a switch from and an introduction to our usual menu of Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert’s German string quartets.

This G minor string quartet of Debussy is a relatively early work. The F major string of Ravel, however, came in 10 years later yet of a very similar style.

Some similarities include a first movement which is in the sonata form and a second movement of similar tempo markings. Debussy marked his Assez vif – tres rythme while Ravel’s second movement was marked as Assez vif et bien rythme. Then came a slow movement preceded by about 40 bars in which all performers play with mutes to produce a muffled sound. And both string quartets ended with a brisk-tempo finale.

As for the differences. Debussy’s scherzo, being inspired by the sounds of the Javanese gamelan orchestra that he had heard at the Paris Exhibition in 1889, was filled with plucked pizzicato while Ravel employs a gem-like effect and colours throughout his quartet.

These two string quartets of French origin are fresh, intimate and strongly emotional. 

~ Written by Boon Sin Ler

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