Wenzel Heinrich Veit String Quartets, Vol. 1 – an individual voice

Robert Schumann had this to say of Wenzel Heinrich Veit’s music:

The form of this quartet contains nothing unusual, there is no boldness or originality, but it is proper and shows a well-trained hand. Both the harmony and the individual voices are worthy of high praise.

I think the first part of that assessment’s a little harsh, but I do agree with the second.

This initial installment of Veit string quartet recordings starts at the beginning, with quartets Nos. 1 and 2.

Wenzel Heinrich Weit (1806-1864) was a Czech composer heavily influenced by Beethoven, Mendelssohn, and Schubert. His music laid the foundation for the next generation of Czech composers, which would include Dvorak and Smetana.

The 1834 String Quartet No. 1 in D minor was completed when Veit was 28 and is a relatively early work. Stylistically, it reminded me of the Op. 18 quartets of Beethoven with a dash of Schubertian harmonies. The third movement features the melody “God Save the Tzar.;” a nod, perhaps, to Russia’s alliance with Czechoslovakia during the Napoleonic Wars.

Veit’s second string quartet completed a year later, shows some growth. This is a much more dramatic work, with a thicker texture and darker character. To me, it sounds somewhat closer to Schumann’s quartets. Perhaps that’s what appealed to Schumann in his review.

I wouldn’t say these works aren’t original. True, Veit doesn’t stray far from Haydn’s string quartet model. But his melodies are interesting and the overall sound of the quartets is quite appealing.

Also appealing are the performances by the Kertész String Quartet. This period-instrument quartet has a wonderfully rich, warm ensemble sound. I am very much looking forward to volume two.

Wenzel Heinrich Veit: Complete String Quartets, Volume One
String Quartet No. 1 in D minor, Op. 3; String Quartet No. 2 in E major, Op. 5
Kertész String Quartet
Toccata Classics TOCC 0335

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