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Reviewed by:
  • American String Quartet Masterpieces
  • Christina Bashford
George Whitefield Chadwick. String Quartets Nos. 1–3. Edited by Marianne Betz. Middleton, WI: A-R Editions, 2006. (Recent Researches in American Music, 58.) [Acknowledgements, p. vi; introd., p. vii–xiii; notes, p. xiii; plates, p. [xiv]–[xv]; score, p. 1–210; crit. report, p. 211–16. ISBN 0-89579-587-6, 978-0-89579-587-8. $184. Parts available: A58P1 (Quartet no. 1), $28; A58P2 (Quartet no. 2), $36; A58P3 (Quartet no. 3), $22.]
George Whitefield Chadwick. String Quartets Nos. 4–5. Edited by Marianne Betz. Middleton, WI: A-R Editions, 2007. (Recent Researches in American Music, 60.) [Acknowledgements, p. vi; introd., p. vii–xv; notes, p. xvi–xvii; plates, p. xviii–[xx]; score, p. 1–156; crit. report, p. 157–62. ISBN 0-89579-606-6, 978-0-89579-606-6. $140. Parts available: A60P1 (Quartet no. 4), $28; A60P2 (Quartet no. 5), $29.]

An “extraordinary talent for composition” (ungewöhnliches Compositionstalent): that was what Carl Reinecke and Salomon Jadassohn, teachers of American composer George Whitefield Chadwick (1854–1931), had to say about their pupil on his leaving the Leipzig Conservatory in 1879 after some eighteen months of study there. Among the music that brought them to this judgment was Chadwick’s C-Major String Quartet, which was played at his Hauptprüfung. An inventive and richly textured composition with a range of expression from soaring lyricism to pounding energy, this quartet is the second of what would eventually be five essays in the genre. All five are well worth playing and hearing—repeatedly so—and now they have appeared in modern critical edition in the Recent Researches in American Music series from A-R Editions.

Chadwick was not alone among Americans (and Britons) of the time to seek compositional training in mainland Europe. The roster includes such names as John Knowles Paine (1839–1906), Horatio Parker (1863–1919), Dudley Buck (1839–1909), and Edward MacDowell (1860–1908) of the United States; and William Sterndale Bennett (1816–1875), Arthur Sullivan (1842–1900), and Ethel Smyth (1858–1944) of Britain. These men and women recognized the limitations of educational infrastructures at home, and had the resolve and resources to go abroad for what they wanted—later, back in their motherlands, producing compositions aplenty. And yet Chadwick’s music, like that by the majority of his American and British peers, resisted assimilation into the regular performance repertoire during the early to mid-twentieth century. This was particularly the case with serious chamber music, which typically remained in manuscript (few American or British music publishers being prepared to invest in products with limited or negligible profit margins) and in private collections, if it survived at all. Such works also carried the hallmarks of a style forged in central Europe, which made them largely unpalatable to a generation of critics who insisted on the need for “good” music to display high originality and/or national identity. Only in the late twentieth century, and thanks to the efforts of a few insightful individuals, were some of [End Page 399] these works rehabilitated and evaluated on their own terms. In the case of Chadwick’s quartets, the main advocates were the musicologist Stephen Ledbetter and the Portland String Quartet, who worked together in the 1980s to create a series of compact-disc recordings on the Northeastern Records label (NR 234–NR 236-CD; the three-disc set, issued in 1988, comprises the five quartets and the piano quintet, with Virginia Eskin). They are now joined by the editor of the two A-R volumes, Marianne Betz, a musicologist who has immersed herself in Chadwick research and spearheaded work on a rich cache of recently discovered source material. A report (“New Light on George Whitefield Chadwick: Recent Discovery of Unknown Material”) appeared in Musical Quarterly in 2001 (vol. 85, no. 4, pp. 641–43); the A-R volumes are the latest fruits of her labors and take advantage of these unearthed sources, which include an autograph score for the Third Quartet that was acquired by Boston Public Library in 1989. Since only the Fourth Quartet had been published (in parts) by a commercial publisher in Chadwick’s...


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