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     Piano Quartets

Brilliant Norwegian Symphonies

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Sterling SACD CDS1084-2

Eyvind Alnæs
(1872-1932)

Symphony #1 in C Minor, Op. 7 (1897)
Symphony #2 in D Major, Op. 32 (1923)

Latvian National Symphony Orchestra/Terje Mikkelsen
Sterling SACD CDS1084-2 78:14

As was usual during most of the nineteenth century, many Scandinavian and Finnish composers trained in Leipzig, and thus were influenced by such teachers as Carl Reinecke. The majority of the Norwegian Alnæs's output was vocal music, but also includes a piano concerto, which has been recorded by Hyperion (CDA67555), and a set of orchestral variations.

These two symphonies show their German influences but there are also touches of Edvard Grieg, and the final movement of the second is very Norwegian indeed. For those interested, the disc is a hybrid, multi-channel SACD.

[ Available on Multichannel Hybrid SACD: Amazon - UK - Germany - Canada - France - Japan - ArkivMusic - CD Universe ]

German Romanticism

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Brilliant Classics 93997

Friedrich Gernsheim
(1839-1916)

Piano Quartet #3 in F Major, Op. 47 (1883)
Piano Quartet #1 in E Flat Major, Op. 6 (1859-64)

Andreas Kirpal, piano
Members of the Diogenes Quartet
Brilliant Classics 93997 67:00

These two immediately attractive works are listed as first recordings, and are in the tradition of German Romanticism. The first, especially in its scherzo, evokes Felix Mendelssohn. The third, like Gernsheim's symphonies, is strongly influenced by the music of his friend Johannes Brahms. As this costs less than a cup of coffee and a sandwich, there's every reason to add it to your collection.

[ Available on CD: Amazon - UK - Germany - Canada - France - Japan - ArkivMusic - CD Universe ]

English Works for Piano & Strings

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Dutton Epoch CDLX7220

Edward Elgar
(1857-1934)

Three Movements for Piano Trio

Adela Maddison
(1866-1929)

Piano Quintet (1916)

Frank Bridge
(1979-1941)

Piano Quartet in C Minor (1902)

The Fibonacci Sequence
Dutton Epoch CDLX7220 79:26

All of these are first recordings. Two of the movements by Elgar – Rosemary and Empire March – will be familiar to those who know his smaller pieces. The realization by Paul Rooke was done to celebrate his 150th anniversary in 2007. Adela Maddison, who spent some years living in France – where she knew a number of well-known composers, especially Gabriel Fauré – and later in Germany, was better known for her songs and opera. The piano quintet was written on her return to England and reflects the events of the time. The music of Frank Bridge, for many years known principally as Britten's teacher, has recently been recorded more frequently. His piano quartet, suppressed for many years, shows the influence of Brahms, Fauré and Ravel.

[ Available on CD: Amazon - UK - Germany - Canada - France - Japan - ArkivMusic - CD Universe ]

Early Piano Quartets

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Naxos 8.570998

Ludwig van Beethoven
(1770-1827)

Piano Quartet in C Major, WoO 36 #3
Piano Quartet in E Flat Major, WoO 36 #1
Piano Quartet in D Major, WoO 36 #2

New Zealand Piano Quartet
Naxos 8.570998 64:13

These three early works from 1785, written when Beethoven was only fourteen, are infrequently recorded. While the influences of Haydn and Mozart are apparent, there are plenty of indications of his later style. They are immediately enjoyable and deserve investigation.

[ Available on CD: Amazon - UK - Germany - Canada - France - Japan - ArkivMusic - CD Universe ]

Master of Fluent Technique

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Supraphon SU3487-2

Zdeněk Fibich
(1850-1900)

Quartet for Violin, Viola, Cello & Piano in E minor, Op. 11 (1874)
Quintet for Piano, Clarinet, Horn, Violin & Cello in D Major, Op. 42 (1894)

Marián Lapšanský, piano
Ludmila Peterková, clarinet
Vladimira Klánská, horn
Jirí Panocha, violin
Jaroslav Kulhan, cello
Supraphon SU3487-2 63:31

Fibich is generally regarded as the greatest of the Czech composers of the nineteenth century after Smetana and Dvořák, and although he wrote in a number of genres, he's best remembered for his orchestral, piano and operatic music. The opening of the piano quartet makes it clear that you are listening to the work of a Czech, but Fibich was no imitator. Both these works are immediately attractive, not least because of the unusual combination of instruments in the quintet, in which Fibich uses especially the horn to good effect.

[ Available on CD: Amazon - UK - Germany - Canada - France - Japan - ArkivMusic - CD Universe ]

[ Sheet music by this composer: Sheet Music Plus - Musicnotes.com ]

Belgian Chamber Music

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MDG6441266-2

Guillaume (Jean Joseph Nicholas) Lekeu
(1870-1894)

Quartet for Violin, Viola, Cello & Piano (1894)
Molto Adagio for String Quartet (1887)
String Quartet (1887)

Jan Michiels, piano
Spiegel String Quartet
Dabringhaus & Grimm MDG6441266-2 72:09

Guillaume Lekeu a Belgian composer who lived for a very short time, studied with César Franck and Vincent d'Indy. His credo, "Je me tue à mettre dans ma musique toute mon âme" (I put my whole heart and soul in my music) is apparent in his chamber music.

This recording opens with a fiery, impassioned violin explosion, but after about thirty seconds settles in to a Fauré-like piano quartet filled with lovely melodies and great part writing. This piano quartet was left unfinished, but completed by d'Indy. The completion is not on this disc.

Lekeu's single movement Adagio and his String Quartet, however, show very strong influence and understanding of Late Beethoven, not just in the part writing, but in the mature mood, the depth of feeling, and the richness of the counterpoint. Special mention should be made of the fifth movement, Poco Allegro e molto scherzoso (track 8). It is a folk-like theme, and twists and turns in delightful sophisticated changes of mode and mood.

The Spiegel Quartet members performing on this fine-sounding disc are Elisa Kawaguti, Stefan Willems, violins; Leo De Neve, viola; Jan Sciffer, cello. The pianist is Jan Michiels.

Read the Classical Net Review

[ Available on CD: Amazon - UK - Germany - Canada - France - Japan - ArkivMusic - CD Universe ]

[ Sheet music by this composer: Sheet Music PlusMusicnotes.com ]

Chamber Music from Italy

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Chandos CHAN9962

Ottorino Respighi
(1879-1936)

Quintet for Piano & Strings in F minor, P. 35*
String Quartet in D minor "Ernst is das Leben heiter ist de Kunst", P. 91*
Six Pieces for Violin & Piano P. 31*

Ambache Ensemble
Chandos CHAN9962 76:42

Respighi was a part of the generation of Italian composers who wanted to show the world that Italy could produce not only great opera, but other serious classical instrumental music. His teacher, Martucci, was at the forefront of that movement. Respighi was not only a composer, but also a professional violinist and violist. While playing for two years with the Imperial orchestra in St. Petersburg, he also was a student of Rimsky-Korsakov and learned valuable orchestration techniques.

In Cobbett's Cyclopedic Survey of Chambermusic, Guido Gatti writes that in Respighi's early music, "echoes of heard music reverberated in his inner consciousness as in a seashell, and he reproduced them with the felicity of youth." There are loving nods towards Brahms in the Piano Quintet, not so much in the melodic material, but in the connective tissue. The String Quartet (in its premier recording!) bends more towards Ravel and Debussy. The mood of the string quartet is true to its Schiller sub-title: Life is serious, art is joyful. The beautiful Quartet's second movement could represent life, but the last movement is most certainly art.

The six violin pieces (1901-1905) are melodious, delicate pieces, with instant appeal. Altogether, this disc is a delight.

* Respighi Catalog by Potito Pedarra
[ Available on CD: Amazon - UK - Germany - Canada - France - Japan - ArkivMusic - CD Universe ]

[ Sheet music by this composer: Sheet Music Plus - Musicnotes.com ]

Piano Quartets of Swiss Extraction

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CPO 777278

Paul Juon
(1872-1940)

Piano Quartet, Op. 50
Piano Quartet "Rhapsodie", Op. 37

Oliver Triendl, piano
Daniel Gaede, violin
Hariolf Schlichtig, viola
Peter Bruns, violoncello
CPO 777278-2

Born in Moscow of Swiss descent, taught by Arensky and S. Taneyev, and called by an unknown critic "the missing link between Tchaikovsky and Stravinsky" (see the International Juon Society website), Paul Juon had a unique voice, a synthesis of many styles and national elements from Schumann to Sibelius. This is emotion-rich Romantic music but it is never saccharine. There is always an edge to even the most dramatic music, especially the most somber Adagio lamentoso of the Op. 50 Piano Quartet. The more popular (and more often recorded) Rhapsodie is lighter and more accessible, and both works are worth repeated hearings.

[ Available on CD: Amazon - UK - Germany - Canada - France - Japan - ArkivMusic - CD Universe ]

[ Parts for the Rhapsodie can be found at Edition Silvertrust ]

Rare Quartets for Piano & Strings

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MD&G 6431424

Mel Bonis
(1858-1937)

Piano Quartet #1 in B Flat Major, Op. 69
Soir, Matin Op. 76
Piano Quartet #2 in D Major, Op. 124

Mozart Piano Quartet
Dabringhaus & Grimm MDG6431424-2 56:38

Once again, the performers of the Mozart Piano Quartet (Mark Gothoni, violin; Haartmut Rohde, viola; Peter Hörr, cello; Paul Rivinius, piano) have produced an excellent CD of rarely heard music. Mèlanie Bonis Domange wrote strong, passionate chamber works. They are serious French Post-Romantic compositions, but this CD gives only us a small sample of Bonis' output during her long creative life. The First and Second Piano Quartets are separated by twenty years. Both contain rich harmonies, high emotional content, and classic structure. The last movement of Op. 124 is especially restless and dramatic, keeping that drama high till the very last chords. Highly recommended.

Read the Classical Net Review

[ Available on CD: Amazon - UK - Germany - Canada - France - Japan - ArkivMusic - CD Universe ]

[ Sheet music by this composer: Sheet Music Plus - Musicnotes.com ]

Finding A Style

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MD&G 6431355

Richard Strauss
(1864-1949)

Piano Quartet, Op. 13 (1885?)
Festmarsch (1884)
Ständchen (1881)
Liebesliedchen (1893)
Arabischer Tanz (1893)

Mozart Piano Quartet
Dabringhaus & Grimm MDG6431355-2 55:41

My enthusiasm for this composition and performance knows no limit. This early piano quartet was clearly influenced by Strauss' love for Brahms, although there are strong hints of Strauss' own gift for soaring melodies and the discovery of a musical language of his own. The third movement is simply gorgeous, similar in mood to the magnificent Andante of Brahms' Op. 60 piano quartet. The part-writing is masterful.

The performance by the Mozart Piano Quartet is thrilling, and the sound quality is lovely and balanced. They play with beautiful tone, delicacy or controlled wildness as the music dictates. This group has become one of my very favorite ensembles.

Mention must be made also of the ear-opening Arabian Dance. It only takes 1:24 but it gets the blood racing like a good strong cup of coffee.

Read the Classical Net Review

[ Available on CD: Amazon - UK - Germany - Canada - France - Japan - ArkivMusic - CD Universe ]

[ Sheet music for the Pianio Quartet: Sheet Music Plus ]
Trumpet