I particularly like string quartets, maybe a hangover from studying four part harmony in music school long ago. I already have a large number of string quartets, particularly from composers known for the genre: Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Schubert, Bartok, Borodin, Dvorak, Janaczek, Shostakovich, etc. I have some one off quartets e.g. Debussy and Ravel. I also have some not so well known ones e.g. two by Bax.

A while ago (pre-Covid) I attended a free concert by students of the Birmingham (UK) Conservatoire and I heard a string quartet by Grieg. My reaction was: I didn't realize that he had written one. So, I tracked it down on CD. I also started a search of other string quartets by composers who are well known but not for their string quartets. So far I have found: Fanny Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky, Verdi, Rimsky Korsakov, Richard Strauss, Stravinsky, Ives, Prokofiev, Barber, Szymanowski, and even Rakhmaninov.

Of course, I can expand my collection with quartets by composers who are not well known at all e.g. I used to have one by Ruth Crawford Seeger but it was on vinyl and I have given away all of my vinyl; I should get it again. However, my priority at the moment, is for composers who are known but primarily for other genres.

Suggestions please.

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    Elgar e minor - very good indeed. – cmp Jun 17 '20 at 9:57
  • @cmp A great answer, make it an answer and I will upvote it. I am wondering how I had not found it myself. – badjohn Jun 17 '20 at 10:07
  • @cmp Found and ordered. As a bonus, I will get one from Delius as well. – badjohn Jun 17 '20 at 10:09

Some composers who composed string quartets but are more famous in other genres:

John Adams; Anton Arensky; Franz Berwald; Alban Berg; Ernest Chausson; Frederick Delius; Gabriel Fauré (thanks, badjohn); Henryk Górecki (he of the Symphony of Sorrowful Songs); Carl Nielsen; Michael Nyman; Prokofiev; Edmund Rubbra; Camille Saint-Saëns; Jean Sibelius; Ralph Vaughan Williams; William Walton, Anton Webern

and a part-example: the whole of Samuel Barber's quartet, which has the famous Adagio

and some more British composers: Sally Beamish; Arthur Bliss; Maxwell Davies; Balfour Gardiner; Norman Hay; Imogen Holst; Elizabeth Maconchy; Colin Matthews; David Matthews; Judith Weir

  • 1
    Thanks. Exactly what I wanted. I have just ordered a CD with the Delius since it came with the Elgar suggested by @cmp and I have the Prokofiev and Barber already but you have given some other ones that I need to hunt down. – badjohn Jun 17 '20 at 10:58
  • You're welcome. I've added some more for you. – Rosie F Jun 17 '20 at 11:18
  • Thanks again. That will keep me busy for a while. I think that I will start with Saint-Saëns. Imogen Holst next, it would be good to add some more women to my collection. – badjohn Jun 17 '20 at 11:21
  • Downvoter, please could you say what could make my answer better? – Rosie F Jun 18 '20 at 14:45
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    I just found a CD of the Saint-Saëns quartets and it includes one by Fauré. You might like to add that to your already excellent answer. – badjohn Oct 8 '20 at 16:14

An unusual string quartet that might interest you is the Madras String Quartet, led by violinist V. S. Narasimhan. They perform Carnatic (south Indian classical) music arranged for the harmonies of Western classical music. I believe this would fit your criterion for "composers who are known but primarily for other genres."

Several videos of their performances are available on YouTube. Some of their albums are also available on Spotify.

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    Thanks, not quite what I was looking for but I'll try it. I have been to Madras / Chennai but it was a very long time ago. – badjohn Jun 17 '20 at 10:10

Elgar’s e Minor is very good.

You could also check out Britten’s. It certainly echos Beethoven tremendously. Never did D Major sound so good either.


  • This has made me realize that I have neglected British composers in my search. I have Bax because I heard one of his in a previous concert by other students. – badjohn Jun 17 '20 at 10:15
  • @badjohn Everyone neglects the British - Haha. I’m yet to find out why. Avoid Ralph VW though, never warmed to his music at all. :-) – cmp Jun 17 '20 at 10:18
  • Embarrassing in my case since I am in in the UK. – badjohn Jun 17 '20 at 10:20
  • Britten wrote 3 string quartets. Vaughan Williams wrote 2 quartets -- I find the first rather reminiscent of Ravel (with whom VW studied) and not particularly English except for one folky tune in the finale. – Rosie F Jun 17 '20 at 11:08
  • @RosieF Britten’s first is lovely. It’s personal my distaste for RVW. I of course respect him tremendously. – cmp Jun 17 '20 at 11:13

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