I Allegro Con Spirito
II Allegro Giusto Ma Con Spirito
Born in Venice, Italy, in 1917 very little is known (or has been written) about Ugo Amendola. He entered the Benedetto Marcello Conservatory, in his native Venice, at the age of 12 and worked his way through the roles of student, teacher, assistant director and director over the next 70 years, until his death. In between he composed music, mostly on his beloved piano, and pursued a lucrative and busy concert career as an in-demand concert pianist, soloist and jury judge (for music competitions), mainly in Italy but sometimes in Europe. He died in 1995, leaving a number of works unfinished.
At under 20 minutes in length, Amendola's only string quartet was completed in 1947. It's a concise but far from an inconsequential piece. Made up of the typical 4 movements it begins with a spirited and optimistic Allegro. The first theme is slightly disjointed but gives way to a 2nd more whimsical one after a.minute that permeates the movement and it's this theme that undergoes some skillful development. The music is quite impressionist and indebted to the Gallic style of the time, often sounding more French than Italian with some interesting sul ponticello playing and occasional use of pizzicato (the sul ponticello section later returns) until the movement finally finishes with a plucked chord. The 2nd, shorter movement continues in an Allegro tempo with the music becoming more intricate, busier and conversational. The 3rd movement marks the emotional heart of the quartet, being a nostalgic and gentle andante. I don't feel great melancholy here until the very end, just the warmth of reminiscence. This is a lovely section and makes perfect sense in relation to what preceeded it. The 4th movenent, Allegro, with its scurrying introduction soon develops more of a conversational quality. Violins bicker and some plucks and motoric rhythms from the viola and cello provide a running commentary. The pizzicato from the 1st movement returns until an argumentative ending.
A nice quartet and one that I didn't know existed until I was asked to listen to it by a fellow TC member. I'm glad I did!
There's only one recording that I know of and that's by the Paul Klee 4tet
from the 'Works 1939-1987' disc. It's a fine performance if a little dry, acoustically. Ensemble is skillful, though, and the Paul Klee provide a strong argument for this interesting and unique quartet. They manage the inner movements particularly deftly and don't get bogged down in the andante.
As some of you are aware I started blogging my recommended string quartet recordings a while back as I didn't want to lose them in the Weekly String Quartet thread. However, blogging on TC has many limitations and there was no way to link all my posts in one place without the page disappearing...