Smyth, Ethel

String Quintet in E Major, Op. 1 for two violins, viola and two celli (score and parts)


Smyth, Ethel String Quintet in E Major, Op. 1 for two violins, viola and two celli (score and parts)

Performance time:

about 26 minutes


Dame Ethel Smyth was born in London, England on April 22, 1858. Her father was a career military officer, and she was one of eight children. Smyth’s early years were spent as many other women during that time in England; she studied at home with private tutors, then during her teen years was sent to boarding school. By the age of twelve, Smyth announced her intent to study music as a specialty, a path that was met with great resistance by her father. After lengthy battles (which included at one point a hunger strike), Smyth entered the Leipzig Conservatory in 1877. Initially, Smyth studied composition with Carl Heinrich Reinecke, harmony with Salomon Jadassohn, and piano with Joseph Maas. Dissatisfied with the instruction offered at the conservatory, after a year, Smyth began studying privately with Heinrich von Herzogenberg in 1878 and became a close friend of his family. Through her musical connections and von Herzogenberg’s mentorship, Smyth was able to meet and converse with some of the leading musical figures of the day including, Edvard Grieg, Clara Wieck Schumann, Johannes Brahms, Anton Rubinstein, and Joseph Joachim. Following her time at the conservatory, Smyth traveled extensively through Europe, keeping in touch with family and friends through her copious letter writing which documented her composing, attendance of concerts, and most importantly, interactions with other musicians and composers.

Smyth’s earliest compositions were written primarily during her years in Leipzig and date back to 1876. These early works were small scale pieces consisting mainly of chamber music, lieder, solo piano works, and some sketches for large scale orchestral compositions and choral pieces. Not all of these works were published during her lifetime, but are extant in manuscript form. The published works of this early period include the String Quintet in E Major, Op. 1 published in 1883, the Cello Sonata in A minor, Op. 5, and the Violin Sonata in A minor, Op. 7; the latter two works were both published in 1887. While Smyth would later go on to become famous for her operas and choral works, her early chamber pieces are deserving of attention and worthy of performance.

The String Quintet in E Major was written in 1883 and the very first of Smyth’s works to be published. The first edition was printed in Leipzig by C.F. Peters in 1884 and bore the following dedication on the cover: To the memory of Rhoda Garrett. In 1880, Smyth met Garrett through mutual acquaintances, and a close friendship formed between the pair. Smyth was traveling in Italy when she received news of Garrett’s death in 1882. There is no doubt that Smyth was thinking of Garrett as she composed the quintet the year after her death. The quintet was later arranged as a duet for piano (published as Op. 1A) as well as for a larger string orchestra. Both of these editions were published by E. Hatzfeld in 1891; the original manuscripts for all these works are lost. …


Read full preface > HERE

Score No.



Repertoire Explorer


Chamber Music






Set Score & Parts


225 x 320 mm

Go to Top