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Ensemble consisting of two violins, viola, and cello, or a work written for such an ensemble. Since c. 1775 such works have been perhaps the predominant genre of chamber music. It was principally developed (if not quite invented) by Joseph Haydn, who wrote some 70 quartets between 1757 and 1803. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz Schubert, Béla Bartók, and Dmitry Shostakovich are the preeminent subsequent quartet composers. Works called string quartets have traditionally observed the four-movement design of the sonata and symphony. Like most chamber music genres, quartet music was traditionally intended primarily for the private enjoyment of amateur musicians rather than for public performance.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on string quartet, visit Britannica.com.