String Quartet (1957)

String Quartet. Andante /excerpt/


Performes: Silesian Quartet, "Warsaw Autumn" 1996, Polish Composers' Union

String Quartet. Allegro, ma non tanto /excerpt/


Performes: Silesian Quartet, "Warsaw Autumn" 1996, Polish Composers' Union

String Quartet. Adagio molto traquillo /excerpt/


Performes: Silesian Quartet, "Warsaw Autumn" 1996, Polish Composers' Union

String QuartetString QuartetString Quartet

PWM Edition

The composer dedicated the first of his three string quartets to “Tadeusz Wroński and his ensemble”. It is the first composition in which Baird overcame his neo-classical sound and texture-related inclinations, though they did remain in the sphere of formal references. Baird’s String Quartet traditionally consists of three movements, with successive parts being put together in accordance with the principle of agogic and expressive contrast: 

I. Andante, II. Allegro, ma non tanto, III. Adagio molto tranquillo.

Each movement is based on a separate row, which undergoes rhythmic transformations and assumes various mirror forms (prime, inversion) in a linear setting, in transpositions and in shortened versions.

The first movement has a tripartite form: ABA’. The outer fragments are mostly melodious and reflective, while the middle fragment is very sharp and emphatic. The presentation of its theme-series is supported here by a vivid rhythm running linearly in the form of a rhythmic theme which is repeated no fewer than 13 times. Thanks to this solution, the theme remains distinctive despite the various melic and colour transformations it undergoes.

The second movement is very lively, even motoric, based on quaver movement. Its construction principle is based on a transformation of the series material (creation of variants).

The third movement acts as a summary. Its structure is that of a mosaic with differing fragments succeeding one another; these fragments are close or distant variants of their originals from the previous movements (primarily from the first movement).

Fascinated with Alban Berg’s Lyric Suite, Baird referred to it in the Quartet not only through his melodic treatment of the series, but also through his instrumentation. His fondness for the colour of string instruments (particularly for the viola and the cello) comes very much to the fore in this work.

The String Quartet marks an important stage in the development of Baird’s compositional style, because it is his first determined attempt to free himself from the neo-classical baggage. According to Izabella Grzenkowicz:

The first String Quartet (1957), with Alban Berg’s influence still in evidence, is characterised by an elaborate form, drawing on traditional models, and sophisticated lyricism; the varied sonic technique of the work is clearly dominated by a freely, melodically defined serialism.


  • I. Grzenkowicz, “Kwartety Tadeusza Bairda” [“Tadeusz Baird’s quartets”], Ruch Muzyczny 1979, no. 15, p. 9.