String quartets accompanied Bartók's creative career from the First, composed in 1908, to the Sixth, completed in 1939 while still in Europe.
The First String Quartet was the most significant creation of the newly fledged composer.
It is unsurprising then that when composing a work of such scale as the First String Quartet in 1908, Bartók should attenuate the German spirit with French colours.
The co-habitation of the two is a characteristically Jugendstil phenomenon, perfectly in keeping with the trends of the age. However, this blending of styles was not a conscious effort on Bartók's part; rather, he was exploring various means of expression.
The tonal plan, too, is rather curious: the first movement is in A flat minor, the second in B major, the third in A minor; that is, the closed tonal system typical of Classical form, and which would reappear in Bartók's later works, is in no way present here.'
(HCD 32513 Bartók New Series, Vol. 13, János Kárpáti)