A woodwind quartet, also known as wind quartet, is an ensemble of four woodwind instruments, or music written for four instruments, at least one of which is a woodwind instrument. Combinations can be varied, but the most common combination includes flute, oboe, clarinet and bassoon, and does not include the French horn from the wind quintet. The woodwind quartet is not as popular as the woodwind quintet in repertoire, but more and more composers have written music for woodwind quartet especially since the 20th century.
According to The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, the repertory of quartets for wind instrument alone is similarly varied in instrumentation. In their divertimentos and cassations Haydn and his contemporaries tended to combine pairs of instruments – two flutes and two horns or two clarinets with two horns, for instance. Rossini's quartets for flute, clarinet, bassoon and horn are mostly arrangements. There are 20th–century works for four different wind instruments by Frank Bridge, Jean Francaix, Egon Wellesz, H.E. Apostel and Henk Badings.
The instruments in a woodwind quartet usually have different ranges that allow for rich harmonies with high and low tones. The highest-pitched instrument is the flute, second highest and alto part is the oboe, third highest and tenor part is the clarinet, and the lowest and bass part is the bassoon. Since these four instruments are from different instrument families, wind quartet music has timbral variety from each instrument's resonance.
Other forms of quartets for woodwinds
Here are some combinations of quartets for woodwinds, other than the combination of flute, oboe, clarinet and bassoon.
- Flute quartet: flute and string trio (e.g. Joseph Haydn, 6 Flute Quartet Op.5, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Flute Quartet in C major K.Anh.171/285b)
- Oboe quartet: Oboe and string trio (e.g. Mozart, Oboe Quartet in F major, K. 370 (K368b))
- Clarinet quartet: Clarinet and string trio (e.g. Iwan Müller (1786–1854) Clarinet Quartet No.1)
2) Combinations of wind instruments in the same family
- Flute Quartet: 4 flutes (any combinations between Piccolo, flute in C, alto flute and bass flute)
- Clarinet Quartet: The clarinet quartet has not been standardized, though there have been some groups consisting of 3 B-flat Clarinets and a bass clarinet, or 2 B-flat, an E-flat and a bass clarinet)
- Saxophone Quartet: Soprano saxophone, alto saxophone, tenor saxophone and baritone saxophone
Woodwind quartet repertoire
- Gioacchino Rossini (1792–1868), Sonatas for Wind Quartet No.1-6 for Flute, Clarinet, Horn and Bassoon
- Karl Goepfart (1859–1942), Wind Quartet in d minor, Op.93 (1907)
- Jean René Désiré Françaix (1912– 1997), Quartet for winds (1933)
- Frank Bridge (1879–1941), Divertimenti (Prelude, Nocturne, Scherzetto, and Bagatelle) (1934–1938)
- Arthur Berger (1912–2003), Quartet for Winds in C Major (1941)
- Elliott Carter (1908–2012), 8 Etudes and a fantasy for Woodwind Quartet (1950)
- Milton Babbitt (1916–2011), Woodwind Quartet (1953)
- Tadeusz Baird (1928–1981), Divertimento for flute, oboe, clarinet & bassoon (1956)
- Mario Davidovsky (born 1934), Three Pieces for Woodwind Quartet (1956)
- Nancy Van de Vate (born 1930), Woodwind Quartet (1964)
- Steven R. Gerber (born 1948), Woodwind Quartet (1967)
- Gloria Coates (born 1938), Five Abstractions of the Poems by Emily Dickinson for Woodwind Quartet (1975)
- Michael Edward Edgerton (born 1961), le Critérion, for woodwind quartet (2000/2008)
- David Carlson (born 1952), Woodwind Quartet (Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Bassoon) (2010)
Notable wind quartets
- ["Quartet"The New Grove Dictionary of music and musicians, second edition, No.20 p.662]
- ["What is a woodwind quartet?" http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-a-woodwind-quartet.htm]