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Antonín  Dvořák
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Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904)


Piano Quartet No. 2 in E-flat major, Op. 87, B. 162

(for violin, viola, cello and piano)
I. Allegro con fuoco
II. Lento
III. Allegro moderato, grazioso
IV. Allegro ma non troppo
Composed in 1889, when Dvořák was around 48 years old
Published in 1890, when Dvořák was around 49
36 minutes (approximately)
13 recordings, 39 videos
35:38
Jansen and Friends
8:39
Ames Piano Quartet
I. Allegro con fuoco
11:13
Ames Piano Quartet
II. Lento
7:01
Ames Piano Quartet
III. Allegro moderato, grazioso
9:27
Ames Piano Quartet
IV. Allegro ma non troppo
9:11
Ashkenasi, Auer, Klotz, Calloway
I. Allegro con fuoco
7:24
Ashkenasi, Auer, Klotz, Calloway
III. Allegro moderato, grazioso
7:16
Ashkenasi, Auer, Klotz, Calloway
IV. Allegro ma non troppo
8:17
Dicterow, Kreger, Dreyfus, Robbins
I. Allegro con fuoco
10:28
Dicterow, Kreger, Dreyfus, Robbins
II. Lento
7:12
Dicterow, Kreger, Dreyfus, Robbins
III. Allegro moderato, grazioso
6:45
Dicterow, Kreger, Dreyfus, Robbins
IV. Allegro ma non troppo
8:35
Emerson String Quartet, Pressler
I. Allegro con fuoco
10:20
Emerson String Quartet, Pressler
II. Lento
7:08
Emerson String Quartet, Pressler
III. Allegro moderato, grazioso
9:25
Emerson String Quartet, Pressler
IV. Allegro ma non troppo
8:46
Ensemble Raro
I. Allegro con fuoco
10:14
Ensemble Raro
II. Lento
7:46
Ensemble Raro
III. Allegro moderato, grazioso
10:01
Ensemble Raro
IV. Allegro ma non troppo
8:31
Fleezanis, Walther, Carr, Kalish
I. Allegro con fuoco
9:33
Fleezanis, Walther, Carr, Kalish
II. Lento
7:54
Fleezanis, Walther, Carr, Kalish
III. Allegro moderato, grazioso
10:02
Fleezanis, Walther, Carr, Kalish
IV. Allegro ma non troppo
8:05
Huang, Ishida, Michael, Shaw
I. Allegro con fuoco
9:19
Huang, Ishida, Michael, Shaw
II. Lento
6:55
Huang, Ishida, Michael, Shaw
III. Allegro moderato, grazioso
9:01
Huang, Ishida, Michael, Shaw
IV. Allegro ma non troppo
8:25
London Bridge Trio, Pomeroy
I. Allegro con fuoco
9:27
London Bridge Trio, Pomeroy
II. Lento
7:09
London Bridge Trio, Pomeroy
III. Allegro moderato, grazioso
9:23
London Bridge Trio, Pomeroy
IV. Allegro ma non troppo
37:44
Musicians from Marlboro
8:10
St. Petersburg Chamber Players
I. Allegro con fuoco
10:11
St. Petersburg Chamber Players
II. Lento
6:43
St. Petersburg Chamber Players
III. Allegro moderato, grazioso
8:55
St. Petersburg Chamber Players
IV. Allegro ma non troppo
33:34
Stern, Laredo, Ma, Ax
33:31
Zamir Ensemble, Salzman

Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904)

Piano Quartet No. 2 in E-flat Major, Op. 87 (1889)

While Dvořák is not typically mentioned along with Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert and Brahms as the chief dominating masters of classical and romantic chamber music, he belongs in this group. He composed prodigiously and masterfully in the genre turning out dozens of string quartets, piano trios, the magnificent piano quintet and two fine piano quartets. Dvořák’s music is grounded in the classic forms and the finest procedures while projecting a unique personality throughout. Dvořák is often compared with Brahms as the latter was a mentor and champion of the former and their proximity of time and place inclines their music towards a similar style. Yet Dvořák is in many ways is closer to Schubert who was one of Dvořák’s idols. Together, they possessed a profound gift for lyricism, romantic sweep, and an exquisite artistry for tone, color and texture that makes their music sound positively enchanted. A final comparison with Schumann shows that both composers produced a brilliant piano quintet followed swiftly by a piano quartet of equal magnificence yet destined to remain somewhat in the shadows of its older, bigger sibling.

At the request of his publisher, Dvořák wrote his second piano quartet in 1889 more than a decade after Brahms finished his stunning trifecta and some forty years after Schumann (Schubert only a youthful two-movement piece for the ensemble). Dvořák’s quartet is big, rich and powerful spanning a traditional four-movement plan. The first movement is a grand sonata form movement that features both Dvořák’s penchant for long, lyrical themes as well as a somewhat uncharacteristic emphasis on a small motive that saturates the texture in a very Viennese classical style: the first four notes played in bold unison become a genetic marker that shows up everywhere throughout the music nearly always signaling a dramatic call to attention. The motive frequently changes character from dark to light, tragic to heroic and a brilliant touch of colorful scoring occurs at the end when it is whispered in soft tremolo by the upper strings just prior to the big finish.

The slow movement, longest of the four, is a deep song of tremendous beauty whose combination of grace, color and passionate emotional outpouring makes the connection between Dvořák and Schubert vividly apparent. There are three primary themes: the first is tender and poised, the second explosive and unbridled while the third sparkles with a pleasant charm. The lingering effect is a sort of peaceful serenity marked by a deeper knowing. A scherzo follows but its features are not quite typical. The first section (the scherzo) is somewhat gentle, swaying to a folk waltz sometimes called a ländler, and purses its own multi-part form full of contrasting sections. The middle section (the trio) is a dashing romp after Schubert or Mendelssohn and its urgent driving energy delivers the character of a scherzo proper, the two sections appearing to be inverted.

The super-charged finale recalls the bold unison lines of the first movement and it appears that Dvořák will conclude with a characteristically upbeat rondo. The movement is actually another sonata form contrasting the boisterous opening material with something soft, lyrical and golden establishing a battle of moods throughout. While commentators often claim that, unlike most of Dvořák’s music, there is nothing particularly nationalistic about this piano quartet, they seem to have missed the finale. Here, a lively folk dance impulse nervously races with pizzicato and bristling piano figurations emulating the Gypsy dulcimer with a momentum that tends to accelerate with passionate abandon. Dvořák concludes with a nearly orchestral sonic might and a definitive exuberance equally matching that of either Brahms or Schumann.