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String quartet

A string quartet is a group of four string musical instruments or a piece written to be performed by such a group.

Although any combination of string instruments may be called a "string quartet", in practice, the term almost always refers to a group consisting of two violins, one viola and one cello. This combination of instruments is widely seen as one of the most important forms in chamber music, with most major composers writing string quartets.

The form first came to be used around the middle of the 18th century, Joseph Haydn being one of the first composers to develop it. Indeed, he is often referred to as "the father of the string quartet" (as well as being called "the father of the symphony"). Haydn played his compositions in a string quartet of which Mozart was also a member.

Many other chamber groups can be seen as modifications of the string quartet, such as the piano quintet, which is a string quartet with an added piano; the string quintet, which is a string quartet with an extra viola or cello; the string trio, which is a string quartet with only one violin; and the piano quartet, a string quartet with one of the violins replaced by a piano.

A piece of music for string quartet may be in any form, but if it is simply String Quartet (with or without a subtitle) it is usually in four movements, with a large-scale structure similar to that of a symphony.

Pieces have been written for string quartet by many composers, among them:

For the purposes of performance, groups of string players sometimes group together to make ad hoc string quartets. Other groups continue playing together for many years, sometimes changing their members but retaining their name. Well known string quartets include:

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