Archive for April, 2009

Fauré, Piano Quartet No. 1 in c minor, Op 15

Sunday, April 19th, 2009

Gabriel Fauré, 1845-1924

Piano Quartet No. 1 in c minor, Op. 15, 1883

Gabriel FauréFaurés chamber music is dominated by ensembles with piano. In fact, only one work excludes it: the string quartet of 1924 written when he was 79, Fauré’s final chamber composition. In addition to the numerous works for piano and soloist including violin and cello sonatas and a treasure trove of precious miniatures mirroring his gift for song, Fauré wrote two piano quartets, two piano quintets and a piano trio, all of them superb works of the highest order. The Piano Quartet No. 1 in c minor, Op. 15 begins the series of larger ensemble works. Written in 1883 (with a revised finale substituted the following year), it falls neatly between the music of César Franck and Ravel suggesting appropriate and revealing comparisons. Fauré had a very distinct musical personality, somewhat aloof from the intoxication of Wagner as well as the modern leanings of the Impressionists. (more…)

Dvořák, Piano Quartet No. 1 in D Major, Op. 23

Sunday, April 19th, 2009

Antonín Dvořák, 1841-1904

Piano Quartet No. 1 in D Major, Op. 23, 1875

Antonín DvořákDvořák composed his first piano quartet in 1875, the same year that Brahms composed his third and final work for the same ensemble. Dvořák was 34 with still merely a local reputation despite all his hard work. He was yet a few years away from his international “breakthrough” with the Slavonic Dances and even more years from what in hindsight are regarded as his mature chamber masterworks. Yet still, within a few measures of the opening, one can recognize Dvořák’s distinctive musical personality. The initial themes of the first movement already suggest the folk-like modal simplicity some would associate with his “American” phase nearly two decades hence. Along with Dvořák’s gift for lyricism and color, this early quartet demonstrates numerous evocations of Slavonic national character that give nearly all of Dvořák’s work a special, novel cast when compared with every composer that preceded him (save Smetana). (more…)

Mozart, Piano Quartet in E-flat Major, K. 493

Sunday, April 19th, 2009

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, 1756-1791

Piano Quartet in E-flat Major, K. 493, 1786

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart“The “pianoforte”, the world’s very first piano, was conceived and built by Cristoforti around 1700. The first piano sonatas appear in print in 1732, the year of his death. But the practical, noteworthy arrival of the piano along with music written specifically for it does not really occur until the mid 1760’s, the same time that this new-fangled instrument was first featured in public concerts. Yet another decade passed before strong evidence of a true compositional style for piano or ensemble works demanding the piano rather than a more “generic” keyboard such as the more common harpsichord. Ultimately, the great first watershed of mature piano music in history falls in the generous middle of the 1780’s including Haydn’s later sonatas and Mozart’s unparalleled piano concertos, the mighty set of 11 works written between 1784 and 1786. (more…)