String Quartet (Debussy)

Claude Debussy completed his String Quartet in G minor (L.91), in 1893 when he was 31 years old. It is Debussy's only string quartet.

String Quartet
by Claude Debussy
Claude Debussy by Marcel Baschet 1884.jpg
Claude Debussy in 1884
KeyG minor
CatalogueL 91
OpusOp. 10
FormString quartet
DurationAbout 25 minutes
DateDecember 29, 1893 (1893-12-29)
LocationSociété Nationale in Paris
PerformersYsaÿe Quartet


That year Debussy had abandoned the opera Rodrigue et Chimène. He planned to write two string quartets, only one of which materialized. The string quartet was to be dedicated to composer Ernest Chausson, whose personal reservations eventually diverted the composer's original intentions.[1]

The quartet received its premiere on December 29, 1893 by the Ysaÿe Quartet at the Société Nationale in Paris to mixed reactions.


The work is in four movements:

  1. Animé et très décidé
  2. Assez vif et bien rythmé
  3. Andantino, doucement expressif
  4. Très modéréEn animant peu à peuTrès mouvementé et avec passion

Its sensuality and impressionistic tonal shifts are emblematic of its time and place while, with its cyclic structure, it constitutes a final divorce from the rules of classical harmony and points the way ahead. After its premiere, composer Guy Ropartz described the quartet as "dominated by the influence of young Russia (Debussy's patroness in the early 1880s had been Nadezhda von Meck, better known for her support of Tchaikovsky); there are poetic themes, rare sonorities, the first two movements being particularly remarkable."[1]

Debussy wrote that "[a]ny sounds in any combination and in any succession are henceforth free to be used in a musical continuity."[2] Pierre Boulez said that Debussy freed chamber music from "rigid structure, frozen rhetoric and rigid aesthetics."[citation needed]

Maurice Ravel, an Impressionist composer associated with Debussy, also wrote a single string quartet, a piece that is modeled on Debussy's.



  1. ^ a b Jameson, Michael. "String Quartet". AllMusic. Retrieved 2018-02-20.
  2. ^ Modernism and Music: An Anthology of Sources. ed. Albright, Daniel. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 2004. p. 191. ISBN 0226012670. OCLC 52845745.CS1 maint: others (link)


  • Liner notes by Robert Orledge to Recording of the Quartet by Belcea Quartet

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