The string quartet genre of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries is often characterized as a musical ‘conversation’ among equal partners.1 To be sure, even in the quartets of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven, one encounters many movements that do not exhibit anything approaching true equality between the parts; yet we commonly regard those movements that do exhibit such equality to be exemplars of the genre. It is as if we hold in our awareness an ideal picture of the quartet as a group of equals, despite the apparent advantage held by the first violin (and perhaps the cello), and that we derive special satisfaction when the composer allows each member to reach its true potential.