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The string quartet was popularized by Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809). Haydn is known as the "father of the string quartet" because he took string quartets from being background music at parties to music performed at a concert. 
String quartets began as groups of friends coming together to casually play together at home or in concerts. Composers such as Franz Joseph Haydn, Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Jan Baptist Vanhal would commonly sit down to play string quartets together for fun.
Overtime, more stable groups were formed such as the Schuppanzigh Quartet, Joachim Quartet, and Ysaye Quartet which were mainly centered around a solo violinist. The Budapest String Quartet (1917-1987) and Kolisch Quartet (1920's -1940's) were some of the first quartets to create a more democratic atmosphere where everyone in the quartet is a leader in their own way.
In the 20th and 21st century, the string quartet became more mainstream. Guarneri (1964-2009), Juilliard (1946-current), Cleveland (1969-1995), and Emerson (1970s-current) were leading quartets at the time and continue to be some of the most influential quartets to this day.
Click here to watch a video of Balourdet explain the history of the string quartet!

Watch each video to see the evolution of string quartets!

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