Recording Brahms String Quartets opus 51

Frei aber einsam – ‘free but lonely’ – was the motto Brahms shared with his good friend Joseph Joachim and it forms the motivic basis of his second quartet: the first letter of each German word represents a musical note (F-A-E). Using these three notes, Brahms created the opening phrase of the first movement, recalling them again in the third and fourth movements and hiding them between the lines in the second movement. The inherent melancholic character of this motto can often be found within his music. Brahms identified with it deeply, having fought virtually alone in defence of his work, his aesthetic conception and his chamber music. To the end, he remained true to himself refusing any path marked by fads and trends that might have impinged upon his freedom and independence. Never once did he regret his position despite the suffering that it caused him. In his own words: “For me f.a.e. (frei aber einsam) has remained a symbol and in spite of everything, I may very well bless it.”

Cuarteto Quiroga, recently appointed quartet-in-residence in charge of the Royal Col- lection of decorated Stradivarius instruments at Madrid’s Royal Palace, has established itself as one of the most dynamic and unique quartets of its generation. The quartet has won international acclaim from critics and audiences alike for its distinctive personality as well as its bold and original approach to the string quartet repertoire.The group takes its name from the Galician violinist Manuel Quiroga, one of the most outstanding string players in Spanish music history together with Pau Casals and Pablo Sarasate.