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CD Review

Richard Strauss

Works for Piano Quartet

  • Piano Quartet, Op. 13
  • Festmarsch in E Flat Major, Op. 1
  • Lied, Op. 17 #2 – Ständchen
  • 2 Pieces for Piano Quartet, Liebesliedchen & Arabischer Tanz
Mozart Piano Quartet
Dabringhaus & Grimm MDG6431355-2 56m DDD
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Although Richard Strauss is most certainly one of the pillars of 20th-Century music, he wrote many a piece during his youthful years. This recording transports us back to that period when the composer was under the guiding hand of Friedrich W. Meyer. With the latter's huge interest in the young Strauss, the composer from Munich started to work his way towards his gigantic orchestral and operatic masterpieces which were to bring him lasting fame.

The plan first called for a piano sonata, then a string quartet, followed by a wind serenade and so on. Many of these short works that Strauss wrote were intended to be performed in family get-together's and celebrations, and the four miniatures in this album were played at such times. Although brief in duration, these little gems reveal the later Strauss in the harmonic modulations and upgrading of passages with chords of daring novelty.

The main work on this CD is the very substantial Piano Quartet, Op. 13 which was probably written during the last quarter of 1885. During this time the composer was being overwhelmed by Brahms' influence and this quartet constantly reminds the listener of the latter's compositional technique, although Strauss' unmistakeable genius is always apparent.

The composer attached great importance to this work by giving it an opus number, and it is the only piece of its kind that he ever wrote. The Piano Quartet also won Strauss 300 marks at a Berlin Composers Society Competition. The young Mozart Piano Quartet's (founded in 2000) readings are highly enjoyable and ideally paced, bringing out all the contrasts between the Quartet and the rest of the pieces. A rare peep into the early career of Strauss recorded in clear, well-balanced sound.

Copyright © 2006, Gerald Fenech