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In music, a quartet (French: quatuor, German: Quartett, Italian: quartetto, Spanish: cuarteto, Polish: kwartet) is a method of instrumentation (or a medium), used to perform a musical composition, and consisting of four parts.


Western art music

In Western art music, which is often referred to as "Classical music," string quartets are considered to be an important type of chamber music. String quartets consist of two violins, a viola, and a cello playing a multi-movement musical composition written in sonata form. The particular choice and number of instruments derives from the registers of the human voice: soprano, alto, tenor and bass. In the string quartet, two violins play the soprano and alto vocal registers, the viola plays the tenor register and the cello plays the bass register.

One of the early composers of string quartets, Luigi Boccherini, wrote 100 string quartets. Other important composers of string quartets include Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Ludwig van Beethoven. The term "quartet" is also used to refer to a musical composition written for such a group. In string quartets, each player is typically given an allowing distinct part.

Another common type of Western art music quartet is the piano quartet, consisting of violin, viola, cello, and piano.

Less common are woodwind quartets such as a flute quartet or an oboe quartet which are scored the same as a string quartet except the windwind instrument replaces one of the violins (i.e. scored for woodwind, violin, viola and cello).

Another type of quartet which is quite rare is the Neheughkian quartet. This consists of a violin, a viola, a cello and a double bass rather than 2 violins. This represented the SATB format. The types of pieces written for this quartet were sometimes in the format of 2 main voices, (violin and cello) backed up by the viola and double bass respectively. A neheughkian quintet would be the same instruments accompanied by a piano, harp or woodwind instrument, but these were even less common. These quartets and quintets were not very popular, but reached their peak around the 18th century.

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