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A string quartet is a musical ensemble of four string players – two violin players, a violist and a cellist – or a piece written to be performed by such a group. The string quartet is one of the most prominent chamber ensembles in classical music, with most major composers, from the late 18th century onwards, writing string quartets. The string quartet rose to prominence with the work of Joseph Haydn. Ever since Haydn's day the string quartet has been prestigious and considered a true test of the composer's art. Quartet composition flourished in the Classical era, with Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert writing famous series of quartets. A slight slackening in the pace of quartet composition occurred in the 19th century.

The standard structure for a string quartet is four movements, with the 1st movement in Sonata form, Allegro, in the tonic key; 2nd movement is a slow movement, in the subdominant key; 3rd movement is a Minuet and Trio, in the tonic key; and the 4th movement is often in Rondo form or Sonata rondo form, in the tonic key.

Some quartets play together for many years in ensembles which may be named after the first violinist (e.g. the Takács Quartet), a composer (e.g. the Borodin Quartet) or a location (e.g. the Budapest Quartet). Well-known string quartets can be found on the list of string quartet ensembles.


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