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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.
A composition for four players of stringed instruments may be in any form. Quartets written in the classical period usually have four movements with a large-
• 1st movement: Sonata form, Allegro, in the tonic key;
• 2nd movement: Slow, in the subdominant key;
• 3rd movement: Minuet and Trio, in the tonic key;
• 4th movement: Rondo form or Sonata rondo form, in the tonic key.
Substantial modifications to the typical structure were already achieved in Beethoven's later quartets, and despite some notable examples to the contrary, composers writing in the twentieth century increasingly abandoned this structure.