Classical Era String Quartet

Early in the second half of the 18th century the string quartet, an ensemble comprised of the instruments pictured below, emerged. While these instruments are labeled here as ‘Baroque’ because the models on which these reproductions are based were manufactured near the end of the Baroque era, their form nonetheless remained basically unaltered in design and detail throughout much of the Classical era--the bows used to play such instruments changed more during this period than did the instruments themselves. The instruments of the violin family pictured here differ from their modern-day counterparts in such details as the angle at which the neck is attached to the body (less pronounced then than now) and the material from which the strings are made (gut or wire-wound gut on the period instruments, wire-wound nylon and metal wire strings on contemporary instruments).

During the Classical Era, string quartets were composed and published primarily with advanced amateur and professional string players in mind, the performers often playing this music more for their own enjoyment than for that of a paying audience of listeners. As organized concert life evolved during later eras, eventually string quartets comprised of highly skilled concertizing professionals emerged, as is still the case today. At the present time, university-based and professional quartets draw heavily upon the repertoire created during the Classical Era in their recital programming, as well as a huge repertoire of quartets composed from 1800 to the present. Many fine quartets today release recordings and concertize throughout the cosmopolitan world. 


Eisen, Cliff. “String quartet” (sections 1- 2), in Grove Music Online. Accessed December 3 2014:

(by Roger Vetter)

violin (Baroque)

violin (Baroque)

viola (Baroque)

violoncello (Baroque)

Title: Les Quatuors Opus 17: Joseph Haydn; Quatuor Festetics. Label: Arcana. Format: CD. Catalog#: A 83. Track: I-12.