Gyula Beliczay, String Quartet in g minor, Op. 21

May 1, 2018

"A pleasing work," so wrote Cobbett's Cyclopedic Survey of Chamber Music of Gyula Beliczay's String Quartet No.1 in g minor, which dates from 1878. It begins with a substantial, somber Adagio introduction. The main part of the first movement is a turbulent Allegro moderato. The second movement, an elegant Intermezzo, allegro grazioso, is at times stately, at others lyrical and wistful. Next comes a deeply felt Adagio interrupted by a contrasting, march-like middle section. The finale is an energetic Allegro risoluto.

Gyula Beliczay (1835-1893), sometimes known as Julius in German and English speaking countries, was born in the Hungarian town of Révkomárom (now in Slovakia on the Danubian border between Hungary and Slovakia). He studied engineering and music in Pressburg and Vienna. He pursued a dual career serving as chief engineer in the Austro-Hungarian Ministry of Communications. He studied music at the same time he took his engineering degree, piano with Carl Czerny and composition with Martin Nottebohm. His piano playing was admired by Liszt and Anton Rubinstein and his compositions were highly praised by contemporaries and performed all over Europe and even as far away as New York. He also was a sought after conductor and composition teacher and after retiring from his government position, he served as director of the Budapest Academy of Music between 1888 and 1892. His music shows the influence of Schubert, Mendelssohn and Schumann but also of the Hungarian composers Mihaly Mosonyi and Ferenc Erkel. He wrote in most genres and numbers three string quartets, a piano trio, this nonet and several instrumental sonatas among his compositions.

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Gabriel Fauré, Piano Quartet No. 2 in g minor, Op. 45

October 27, 2017

Gabriel FauréGabriel Fauré (1845-1924) was born in the village of Pamiers, Ariège, Midi-Pyrénées. At an early age he was sent to study at the famous École Niedermeyer, a Parisian school which prepared church organists and choir directors. He studied with several prominent French musicians, including Charles Lefèvre and Camille Saint-Saëns. For most of his life, Fauré worked as a church organist and teacher. Among his students were Maurice Ravel and Nadia Boulanger. He was a founder of the the Société Nationale de Musique and eventually became director of the Paris Conservatory. In retrospect, he has come to be regarded as a transitional and unique figure in French music. His lifetime and works spanned the period of the mid Romantic right up to the modern post-WWI developments of Stravinsky. He and his music were well-known during his lifetime and several of his works are still popular today such as his Requiem, the opera Pénélope, the music for Pelléas et Mélisande and the Dolly Suite. He wrote a considerable amount of chamber music; including two piano quartets, two piano quintets, two cello sonatas, two violin sonatas, a string quartet, and a piano trio.

Faure’s Second Piano Quartet was completed in 1887. It is his only major work that experiments with cyclic form, an approach that was quite popular in France thanks to the influence of César Franck and Franz Liszt. The first movement, Allegro molto moderato, opens with a long and flowing unison string melody. The viola introduces the secondary theme, which is closely related to the first subject. The second movement, Allegro molto, begins in turbulent fashion with a breathless, syncopated theme in the piano. What appears to be a lyrical contrasting theme in the strings is another version of material from the beginning of the first movement; at the same time it is related to the scale passage of the scherzo theme. Fauré wrote that the third movement, Adagio non troppo, grew out of his memories of the sounds of bells heard years before in the garden of his family’s home in Cadirac. The finale, Allegro molto, is full of energy, passion, and turbulence. Its theme of surging triplets has a relentless forward drive. Later, contrasting ideas recall themes originally heard in the scherzo and the first movement.

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Alexander Kopylov, String Quartet No.3 in A Major, Op.32

Alexander Kopylov Although Alexander Kopylov (1854-1911) began his studies at the Imperial Court Choir which was similar and modeled after the more famous one in Vienna. (Today known as the Vienna Boys Choir). There he studied violin and served as a chorister. Later, he taught there for much of his life. Although he was unable to gain entrance to either of the major Conservatories in Russia, he nevertheless was able to study composition privately with Rimsky-Korsakov and Anatoly Liadov. He gained a reputation as a Symphonist, and composer of songs, but through his friendship with Rimsky Korsakov, he became interested in chamber music, writing four string quartets. Of them Wilhelm Altmann, the famous chamber music scholar and critic, writes in his Handbook for String Quartet Players:

"Kopylov's four carefully written string quartets show an outstanding command of proper quartet style. He gives all of the instruments mutually rich parts to play, alternating in exquisite fashion. His excellence is particularly strong in the sparkling themes. He is able to combine the external beauty of form with effective ideas and distinctive harmonies and rhythms. His Third String Quartet was published in the year after his death in 1912. (although most likely it was composed during the late 1890's---Ed.). The opening movement, Allegro risoluto immediately introduces a fresh and appealing theme which is followed by a more lyrical subject played over a chromatic ostinato in the viola. The second movement is a lively, spirited Scherzo, a kind of updated Mendelssohnian affair with a slower middle section full of Russian charm. A slow movement, Andante, follows. Here the first violin sings a plaintive song over a heavy, almost funereal accompaniment in the lower voices. The finale, Allegro ma non troppo, features a rustic folk dance full of forward motion for its main subject. Here and there, for example, in the second theme we hear echoes of Borodin

Here is another with good quartet with appealing melodies, good part-writing and no great technical difficulty, which is fun to play and to hear. Long out of print, we are pleased to make it available again.

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Ignaz Lachner, Soundbite 1st Movt Soundbite 2nd Movt Soundbite 3rd Movt String Trio for 2 Violins & Cello "Die gute alte Zeit", Op.77

Ignaz Lachner Lachner's Die gute alte Zeit (The Good Old Time) for 2 Violins and Cello dates from 1874. He subtitled it "Musikalischer Scherz"—a musical treasure. It is pretty clear that Lachner intended the work as a kind of gentle parody in the spirit of Mozart's A Musical Joke (The Village Musicians). The trio, which is in three movements—Maestoso, quasi andantino, Andantino and Allegro giocoso—is meant to be a work from the Baroque era. Lachner left a note to the players at the bottom of the first violin part. "Composer's Note: The performance markings should be followed exactly since this will demonstrate the baroque style of playing. But the playing is meant to be a caricature." Much of Lachner's dry humor is lost to 21st century ears, in the same way that few today can hear the humor or parody in Mozart's Musical Joke. Despite this, the writing is rather good and as such deserves republication for this little served combination.

Ignaz Lachner (1807-1895) was the second of the three famous Lachner brothers. Ignaz was taught (as were the others) organ, piano and violin. Upon the latter instrument, he was somewhat of a prodigy. He eventually joined his older brother Franz in Vienna where he became a close friend of Schubert's and fell under the influence of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven. He composed a considerable amount of music, much of it chamber music, including seven string quartets.

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Giovanni Battista Viotti, String Quartet in G Major, G.114

Giovanni Battista Viotti Today, if one hears any of Viotti's music, it is mostly likely one of the more than 20 violin concertos he wrote. Although he wrote hundreds of works in most every genre, they have all but disappeared.

Giovanni Battista Viotti (1755-1824) was widely considered the greatest violin virtuoso of the 18th century. He was the precursor to Paganini, not only in his development of violin technique but also in his use of Italian vocal melody in instrumental music. Viotti was a student of Gaetano Pugnani, who himself was one of the greatest violinists of the first part of the 18th century. Viotti toured throughout Europe eventually settling in Paris where he lived for many years before moving to London where he stayed until his death.

The String Quartet in G Major, G.114 is one of a set of three concertante works which were composed around 1815 and published in Paris two years later. Concertante style, as opposed to that pioneered by Haydn with its complex accompaniment, gives one voice the solo whilst the others have a simpler, supporting accompaniment. But these three concertante quartets are among the best of their type. Each instrument is given solos throughout and Viotti's gift for lovely melodies is everywhere apparent.

In four movements, the quartet begins with an introductory Larghetto This is followed by the main part of the movement, Allegro commodo which begins with a coy and charming theme that suddenly explodes with energy. The somewhat sad, lyrical theme is first heard high in the cello tenor register. A Minuetto commodo is placed second which, for the time, was unusual. The fetching themes, especially that of the trio section, are models of lovely Italian vocal melody. A languid Andantino follows. Here, Viotti combines the concertante style with the more forward technique found in the Vienna classical composers. In the lively finale, Allegretto vivace, we can see how Viotti's music provided an example which Paganini was to follow.

This quartet, along with the two others in this set which we publish, is not only fun to play and to hear, it is strong enough to be presented in concert by those groups wishing to perform a contemporary alternative to the Vienna composers.

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Wladysław Żeleński, Piano Quartet in c minor, Op.61

Władysław (Ladislas) Żeleński Władysław (Ladislas) Żeleński (1837-1921) was born in Grodkowice not far from the city of Cracow. After studying piano locally with several teachers, including the well-known concert pianist Alexander Dreyschock, he went to Prague Univeristy where he took a doctorate in philosophy. He also took composition lessons from Josef Krejãi after which he enrolled in the Paris Conservatory where he continued his composition lessons with Henri Reber. Upon his return to Poland he enjoyed a long career as a concert pianist, teacher and composer. He held several important teaching posts including Director of the Cracow Conservatory which he helped to found. He wrote in most genres and left a number of chamber music works which have received considerable praise from the well-known critic, Wilhelm Altmann.

Zelenski's Piano Quartet was composed around 1907 and published in 1910. The big, restless opening movement, Allegro con brio, starts somewhat hesitantly but quickly builds to a dramatic climax which releases the lovely second theme. The movement is simply brimming with gorgeous material which is crowned by exquisite part-writing. The cello brings forth the long-lined main theme to second movement, Romanza, andante sostenuto. One barely notices as the other voices join in this highly romantic song without words. The third movement, Intermezzo allegretto, is a dance, full of exotic perfume, first there are wafts of French and then Spanish melody. After a few powerful measures of piano introductions, the strings bring forth main theme to the finale, Allegro appassionato. It is powerful and thrusting, yet full of yearning.

It is hard to understand how a fine work like this did not enter the repertoire. Perhaps because like so many other wonderful late romantic works, it was washed away by the reaction in the aftermath of the First World War. There is no question but that it belongs in the concert hall and will interest professional groups, but at the same time, amateur groups will also rejoice in such a lovely work. Long out of print, we are please to make it available once again.

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Wladysław Żeleński, Piano Trio in E Major, Op.22

Władysław (Ladislas) Żeleński Władysław (Ladislas) Żeleński (1837-1921) was born in Grodkowice not far from the city of Cracow. After studying piano locally with several teachers, including the well-known concert pianist Alexander Dreyschock, he went to Prague Univeristy where he took a doctorate in philosophy. He also took composition lessons from Josef Krejãi after which he enrolled in the Paris Conservatory where he continued his composition lessons with Henri Reber. Upon his return to Poland he enjoyed a long career as a concert pianist, teacher and composer. He held several important teaching posts including Director of the Cracow Conservatory which he helped to found. He wrote in most genres and left a number of chamber music works which have received considerable praise from the well-known critic, Wilhelm Altmann.

Żeleński's Piano Trio in E Major, Op.22 dates from 1874. It is unusual in that it is programmatic with each movement is given a subtitle which are taken from the poem Song of the Bell by Friedrich Schiller. The opening movement, an Allegro, is subtitled Vivos voca (I call the living). This is a well-written dramatic movement, with fetching melodies. It sounds rather Schumanesque. The middle movement, Andante sostenuto, is subtitled Mortuos plango (I mourn the dead). The music is melancholy but not really sad and does bring to mind a lament for the dead. It, too, is well-written and tonally in the Germanic romantic tradition. The finale, Allegro deciso, is subtitled Fulgara frango (I defeat or repel the thunder) The music consists of a dance-like march with snatches of Polish melody but there are few hints of thunder to be heard. Rather it is a joyous, triumphant Schumannesque affair.

This is a fine work which deserves to be heard in concert concert. It is an excellent romantic era Polish piano trio which is an important addition to the repertoire. Long out of print, it should be of interest to both professionals and amateurs.

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Lorenzo Perosi, String Quartet No.3 in G Major

Lorenzo Perosi Lorenzo Perosi (1872-1956) was born in the Piedmontese town of Tortona. He hailed from a long line of church musicians. His first lessons were from his father one of Italy's most prominent church musicians. Subsequently, he studied at the Milan Conservatory and immediately after became an ordained priest. By the age of 20, he had obtained world-wide fame as a composer of sacred music. He held a series of high musical posts within the church, culminating in his appointment as Maestro Perpetuo della Cappella Sistina, or Perpetual Director of the Sistine Choir in Rome, a position he held for nearly 50 years. His fame for his masses and other sacred music was such that few knew that he also composed instrumental music, including three string trios, sixteen string quartets, three string quintets, four piano quintets, and several sonatas and suites for various instruments. Perosi made no great effort to promote his chamber music and to have it performed and very few pieces were published perhaps because he did not feel it appropriate for a man of the cloth to write secular music or perhaps he felt it might detract from his reputation as a composer of sacred music. The net result was that it fell into oblivion, much of it without having ever received any attention whatsoever.

His Third String Quartet is one of eight!! string quartets that Perosi composed during 1928. Such feverous work, some scholars believe, was a therapeutic attempt to rid himself of the severe depression from which he was suffering. It is in three movements. The sunny opening movement, Allegro, opens with a optimistic, heroic theme first given out by the cello over a pulsing accompaniment. A tonally more advanced and diffident second theme follows. The middle movement, Adagio, begins softly with pizzicato. The violin then introduces the first phrase of a very vocal melody. The other voices sing a refrain and the theme is developed but always over a soft, insistent pizzicato. Gradually, sadness and uncertainty creep in. An aura of melancholy hangs over the proceedings. The finale, Vivo, quickly dispels this mood. Over pulsing triplets, the violin introduces an heroic but also sunny, lyrical theme of triumph which is reminiscent of the opening movement.

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Carl Reinecke, String Trio in c minor, Op.249

Carl Reinecke At the age of 74, Carl Reinecke (1824-1910) wrote what is arguably the greatest late romantic string trio.

Nowadays, Reinecke has been all but forgotten, an unjust fate for a man who excelled in virtually every musical field with which he was involved. As a performer, Reinecke was, during the mid-19th century, reckoned for three decades as one of the finest concert pianists before the public. As a composer, he produced widely respected and often performed works in every genre running the gamut from opera, to orchestral to chamber music. As a conductor, he helped turn the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra into a group with few if any peers. As its director, he helped the Leipzig Conservatory become what was widely regarded as the finest in the world. As a teacher of composition and of piano, he was considered to have few if any equals. Among his many students were Grieg, Bruch, Janacek, Albeniz, Sinding, Svendsen, Reznicek, Delius, Arthur Sullivan, George Chadwick, Ethel Smyth, Felix Weingartner, Karl Muck and Hugo Riemann. In his time, Reinecke and his music were unquestionably regarded as first rate.

Reinecke was born near Hamburg in the town of Altona, then in the possession of Denmark. Most of his musical training was obtained from his father, who was a widely respected teacher and author. Starting in 1845 at the age 21, he began concertizing across Europe, in the course of which he was appointed court pianist to the King of Denmark. Mendelssohn, Schumann and Liszt all were favorably impressed by him and helped him gain an appointment at the Cologne Conservatory. By 1860, Reinecke’s reputation was such that he obtained a teaching position at the prestigious Leipzig Conservatory, which had been founded by Mendelssohn, and eventually rose to become its director. His reputation and excellence as a teacher can be attested to by the aforementioned list of famous students.

Unlike many of his contemporaries, or even some of those composers who were younger such as Bruch, Reinecke was able to move beyond the music of Mendelssohn and Schumann, the musical idols of the mid 19 Century. String Trio in c minor, Op. 249 is infused with the developments of late, and even Post-Brahmsian, romanticism. The writing is very contrapuntal and original. The dark and brooding opening Allegro moderato is painted on a large canvas. It shows a wide range of emotion and richness of tonality, Reinecke easily and often makes the three voices sound like four. The Andante which follows is a theme and set of variations. It is more intimate and trio-like than the preceding movement, beginning with a naive, quiet melody with an energetic, dance-like fourth variation. The very brief third movement, Intermezzo, Vivace ma non troppo, is a heavily syncopated scherzo with an interestingly contrasting middle section which illustrates Reinecke employing the new directions of Post-Brahmsian tonality. The big finale, Adagio, ma non troppo lento — Allegro un poco maestoso, begins as a lyrical and highly romantic lied. It has a valdictory quality to it. The thematic material of the Allegro is brighter but still densely scored, once again creating a wealth of sound which belies the fact that only a trio is playing.

This is a superb masterpiece which should be on the music stands of every string trio group, whether amateur or professional.

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Peter Hänsel, String Quartet in B flat Major, Op.37

Peter Hänsel Peter Hänsel (1770-1831) (sometimes spelled Haensel), was born in the town Leppe in what was then Prussian Silesia. He was trained as a violinist and worked in Warsaw and St. Petersburg before obtaining employment in Vienna where he studied composition with Haydn during the 1790’s. Other than two years he spent in Paris during 1802-1803, his entire life was spent in Vienna, working as a violinist and composer. He devoted himself almost exclusively to the genre of chamber music, writing nearly 60 string quartets, 6 string trios, 5 string quintets and works for several other small ensembles. His style remained firmly rooted in the classical era and is closely related to that of his teacher Haydn but he also introduced French and Polish elements into his works, the result of his sojourning in those lands.

His String Quartet in B flat Major, Op.37 dates from 1828 and is one of the last ones he composed. Hänsel’s style remained fairly consistent throughout his lifetime and despite the date of the composition, he remained true to late Vienna Classical Style which he learned from Haydn. The opening Allegro is an appealing Haydnesque affair, lively and jovial. The second movement, Andante poco adagio, is stately, noble and lyrical. In third place is a playful Scherzo, allegro which clearly shows the influence of Haydn with its use of rhythm. A lyrical and slower trio follows. The finale, Vivace, with its use of triplets, calls to mind a steeple chase or bumptious ride over the country side.

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Jean Cras, String Trio for Violin, Viola & Cello

Jean Cras "I strongly recommend Jean Cras' String Trio for public performance. Nor should experienced amateurs overlook this challenging but outstanding work." So wrote the highly respected critic Wilhelm Altmann in his Handbook for String Players.

Nearly forgotten now for more than a half century, Jean Cras (1879-1932) stands out in stark contrast to virtually every other French composer of his generation. He was born in the coastal town of Brest into a family with a long naval tradition. Although his affinity for music and his talent showed itself early, he was, nevertheless, enrolled at the Naval Academy in 1896. But, in his spare time, he studied orchestration, counterpoint and composition. Feeling he could go no farther alone, he sought out a respected teacher, Henri Duparc. Duparc was astounded by Cras’ talent and meticulously exposed him to compositional techniques of Bach, Beethoven and his own teacher, César Franck. These were Cras' only lessons in composition.

As a composer, Cras' greatest problem was a chronic lack of time to devote to his art as he became a fully commissioned officer in the French Navy. He loved the sea, but served in the navy only out of a sense of patriotism and family tradition. Unlike Rimsky-Korsakov and Albert Roussel, both of whom had begun careers in the navy but later resigned, Cras never left the navy and eventually rose to the rank of Rear-Admiral. His maritime experiences sowed the seeds of an imagination and introspection which enabled him to understand profoundly the alienation of the human condition. And it is this which truly provides the key to his music.

Jean Cras Although he was, as so many other of his contemporaries, drawn to cyclical composition pioneered by Franck, he employed it with a unique iconoclastic language of his own. It was a meticulous and sophisticated autobiographical synthesis of the things which were paramount in his life: the sea, the Church, his native Brittany, and the exoticisms discovered on his many voyages. He reached the peak of his powers during the 1920's and it was then that Cras composed some of the most inventive compositions of the twentieth century, of which his String Trio is among the foremost.

Dating from 1925, the opening movement which is without any tempo marking other than a metronome indication begins with a searching melody over the pulsating 8th notes of the cello. After a reprise, one hears a series of jazz rhythms as the development proceeds. The second subject, is gentler but is interrupted by a search light call from the viola. The extraordinary second movement--there is nothing like it in the trio literature, Lent, is a serious of unrelated episodes. The first is religious, the strings create a soft, meditative organ-like sound that one might well hear in Church. Next comes a peasant dance, perhaps a musette with just a touch of the exotic. Then, the violin is given a long wailing solo in the exotic sounds of the Levant and beyond. This is in turn followed by a haunting viola solo. The movement closes much as it began. A quick movement, Animé, presents a broad panorama of traveling music. The lower strings strum, guitar-like, as each voice takes turns bringing out a bright melody. The development introduces an exotic element. Then the tempo begins to increase until it reaches a wild whirling feverish pitch before the main theme is reprised. In the finale, Très animé, the cello begins a Bach-like etude which as it goes along morphs into a Gaelic dance which must have come from his native Brittany. A lyrical second theme is sung over the soft ponticello voices in the background.

This is an amazing modern work. Of course, it belongs in the concert hall, but experienced and diligent amateurs will also revel in its beauty and originality. Only published once, our edition is a reprint of the original.

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Antoine Bessems, String Trio in E flat Major, Op.90

Antoine Bessems Antoine Bessems (1806-1868) was born in Antwerp, at the time part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands, then under French control. Bessems entered the Paris Conservatory, studying the violin with Pierre Baillot. After graduating, he pursued a career as a performer, mainly in Paris. He also served as conductor of the Philharmonic Orchestra of Antwerp for a number of years. His last years were spent in Paris where he became a prominent teacher and performer. Today he is remembered primarily for preserving the score to a mass by his friend Berlioz. But during his lifetime, he was well-known and on friendly terms with most of France’s important composers, including Saint-Saens, who dedicated a violin sonata to him. Bessems wrote a considerable amount of music in most genres. Chamber music, church music and music for voice were the main compositional focus.

The String Trio in E flat Major, Op.90 was published in 1866, but despite its late opus number, it was almost certainly composed some decades earlier. Judging from its style, one might well conclude it was composed in the 1820’s or 1830’s. The work, which Bessems called "Grand Trio", is, for its time, quite substantial and in five movements. As one might expect from a string player, Bessems displays an excellent understanding of the instruments and writes quite well for each of them. The huge opening movement begins with a solemn and stately Grave introduction, which immediately captures the listener's attention. The main part of the first movement is a lively and upbeat Allegro vivo. Next comes a muscular Scherzo. A charming Andante con moto, somewhat in the form of a serenade, with simple but lovely melodies follows. Bessems surprises by inserting a Tempo di Menuetto rather than proceeding directly to the finale. This is an old-fashioned traditional minuet. The finale, Allegro, begins in rousing style but soon we hear the influence of Rossini and the introduction of Italian vocal type melodies.

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Vitĕzslav Novák, String Quartet No.3 in G Major, Op.66

Vitĕzslav Novák Novák made several attempts to begin his third string quartet, first in 1928, but he found that his material did not satisfy him. Throughout the 1930s, he kept trying. He noted in his memoirs that he found it very difficult to return to the genre of chamber music after a hiatus of three decades and he was concerned that what he wrote might damage what reputation and prestige he had gained from his earlier works. Finally in 1938, he began work on it. The Quartet is in two large movements. The opening movement, Allegro risoluto is a kind of rondo based on Moravian and Slovakian themes. In the middle there is what begins as a light-hearted fugue. However, the music eventually turns into something Novak likened to a dark dance on a thundering volcano. This was because he could not ignore the dire political situation with Nazi Germany threatening Czechoslovakia's very existence. The second movement, Lento doloroso, is a sad passacaglia. There is a sense of resignation, which Novak recalled was his feeling over lost youth as well as his fear of the future for his country.

Vitĕzslav Novák (1870-1949) is widely regarded as one of the leading proponents of the Czech nationalism in music in the generation after Dvořák and Smetana. However, as a youth, it seemed unlikely that he would become a musician having begun by hating music as a result of being brutally forced to study the violin and the piano as a young child. But a fascination for composition, which he discovered in his teens, led to his decision to enter the Prague Conservatory, where he studied with Dvořák among others. Dvorak's example of using Czech folk melody in his music to foster the nationalist cause at a time when the Czech and Slovak peoples were seeking statehood from Austria encouraged the young composer to follow this path. After graduating from the Conservatory in 1896, he traveled to eastern Moravia and Slovakia where the local folk melodies he found served as a source of inspiration for him.

This is a very powerful and emotive work which reflects the mood of the times.

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Hermann Berens, String Trio No.2 in c minor, Op.85 No.2

This is the second of a set of three mid-romantic period string trios composed by Hermann Berens during the summer of 1871.

Hermann Berens Hermann Berens (1826-1880) was born in Hamburg and studied piano and composition in Carl Gottlieb Reissiger who was the music director and chief conductor in Dresden. During this time, Reissiger employed Wagner as his second conductor. Although Berens undoubtedly got to know Wagner well, there is nothing of Wagner in Berens’ music. Rather, Mendelssohn and Schumann served as his models. spent most of his life in Sweden eventually becoming the director of a prominent Stockholm music drama theater and a professor at the Stockholm Conservatory. In addition to his chamber music, he wrote several operas in Swedish and a considerable amount of piano music.

Besides the piano, Berens also was proficient on the violin and the trios reveal the hand of an experienced string player. String Trio No.2, Op.85 No.2 is the only one of the three trios composed in the minor. The opening, Allegro agitato is superb. Filled from the first notes with emotional tension the composer is able to deliver on the captivating first subject. The string writing throughout this big, exciting movement is masterful. Especially noteworthy is the soft Mendelssohnian ending, reminiscent of the Hebrides Overture. This is followed up by a lovely, primarily pastoral Andante con moto. This is also a very effective movement which is not really slow although there is a kind of drag to it. The third movement, Allegro patetico, is full of forceful forward propulsion. The naive trio, provides a striking contrast and features a sweet country dance melody. The exciting finale, Allegro vivace, is sure to please any audience which gets the chance to hear it.

This trio as well as its mates, showing the influence of Mendelssohn and Schumann as they do, are an important addition to the string trio repertoire since there is really nothing else from the mid-romantic period of this excellence. We have reprinted the original edition but have added rehearsal numbers. Op.85 No.2 belongs in the recital hall and most certainly on the stands of amateur trio groups.

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Hermann Berens, String Trio No.1 in D Major, Op.85 No.1

This is the first of a set of three mid-romantic period string trios composed by Hermann Berens during the summer of 1871.

Hermann Berens Hermann Berens (1826-1880) was born in Hamburg and studied piano and composition in Carl Gottlieb Reissiger who was the music director and chief conductor in Dresden. During this time, Reissiger employed Wagner as his second conductor. Although Berens undoubtedly got to know Wagner well, there is nothing of Wagner in Berens’ music. Rather, Mendelssohn and Schumann served as his models. spent most of his life in Sweden eventually becoming the director of a prominent Stockholm music drama theater and a professor at the Stockholm Conservatory. In addition to his chamber music, he wrote several operas in Swedish and a considerable amount of piano music

Besides the piano, Berens also was proficient on the violin and the trios reveal the hand of an experienced string player. The opening movement to the trio, Allegro vivace, begins in a stately fashion. Berens builds tension slowly but soon there is a definite sense of drama. The addition of a beautiful and lyrical second heightens the appeal. The second movement, Andante Maestoso, is a Schumannesque funeral march with rich deep sonorities. Pizzicato is also used to telling affect. Berens seemed to have an affinity for moderately slow movements. A charming minuet, Allegro non troppo, is comes next. There is a chirpy, up-dated Mozartian feel with a contrasting trio of slightly darker hue. The main subject to the Rondo-finale, Allegro non troppo, is graceful and elegant. Fast downward-plunging and upward-rocketing, which appear later, create a great sense of excitement and are used again in the thrilling conclusion to the work.

This trio, along with the two others which follow are an important addition to the string trio repertoire since there is really nothing else from the mid-romantic period of this excellence.

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Wilhelm Berger, String Trio in g minor, Op.69

Wilhelm Berger "Wilhelm Berger's Op.69 String Trio is in every respect a masterpiece. Although Berger was a pianist and not a string player, his writing for string instruments in this trio, as in his string quintet, is superb. The first movement, Lebhaft (lively), begins with a lovely Idyll. The main theme is warm and charming. The second movement, Etwas belebt (somewhat lively), is a set of variations on a march-like theme. The fugual variation in the minor is particularly fine. The magnificent Scherzo, Sehr lebhaft (very lively) which follows has the quality of a tarantella. The finale has a long, slow introduction, while the main section combines a sense of charming naiveté with the spirit of a humorous prankster."

Wilhelm Altmann writing in his Handbook for Chamber Music Players.

Wilhelm Berger (1861-1911) was born in Boston but returned to Germany with his family within a year of his birth. He grew up in Bremen where he received his first lessons in voice and piano. A scholarship allowed him to study with the famous composition teacher Friedrich Kiel in Berlin at the Hochschule für Musik. After graduating, he held a number of teaching positions, including that of Professor of Composition at the Royal Academy. He also served as director of the famous Meiningen Court Orchestra. Berger, though his compositions had won many prizes and were often performed, did not quickly achieve the fame he deserved. Highly respected by the cognoscenti, he never self-promoted or advertised himself with the wider musical public as did several others. Fame finally did start to come, but just at the moment of his death, at which time he was starting to be regarded, along with Max Reger, as Germany's most important successor to Brahms. Unfortunately, the First World War and its aftermath, led to a total lack of interest for many decades of nearly all romantic composers, and the reputation of those who were less well-known such as Berger, never really recovered.

No string trio group, be it amateur or professional, should be without this work in their repertoire. Certainly one of the best late romantic era works for string trio there is.

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Franz d'Alquen, String Trio in C Major

Franz d’Alquen (1804-1877) was born in the German town of Arnsberg in the province of Westphalia. He and his pianist brother Friedrich, who is somewhat better known, emigrated to London around 1830 where he remained the rest of his life. His String Trio in C Major which was brought out by the London publisher Robert Cocks & Co in 1850 a year after it was composed is an example of this kind of composition. It is well-written for all three voices, has appealing melodies and presents no technical difficulties.

The trio opens with a somber Lento introduction which leads to a genial Allegro moderato. The second movement, a lyrical Andante cantabile, is full of charm and has a vocal quality. Next comes a brisk Allegro scherzo with nicely contrasting trio section. The finale is an effortlessly flowing Allegro grazioso.

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Anton Rubinstein, String Quartet No.5 in B flat Major, Op.47 No.2

Writing in his Handbook for String Quartet Players, the famous chamber music critic Wilhelm Altmann has this to say about Rubinstein’s String Quartet No.5 in B flat Major: "While Rubinstein’s first set of three quartets, his Op.17, showed little influence of his Russian homeland, this is not the case in his next three, the Op.47 which appeared in 1857. clearly do show such influence. The opening movement, Moderato con moto, begins with a warm-blooded melody given out by the cello. The other themes which follow are also quite attractive. In the second movement, Moderato, the main section has the quality of a folk dance while the trio section, though not so marked approximates a waltz. The third movement, Moderato assai, is a set five of interesting variations of a simple theme. The second and fifth variations are particularly striking. The main subject of the finale, Vivace, is dance like but later is turned into an engaging fugue.

Anton Rubinstein (1829-1894) was one of the great piano virtuosi of the 19th century with a technique said to rival that of Liszt. He also gained renown as a composer and conductor. Rubinstein was one of those rare concert virtuosi whose contribution to music went far beyond performing. In 1862, he founded the St. Petersburg Conservatory and served as its first director. His efforts in developing Russian musical talent were perhaps the greatest of any single individual. Not only did he introduce European educational methods but he also established standards that were as rigorous as any conservatory in Europe.

While Rubinstein's compositions were extremely popular during his lifetime, after his death, they were criticized because they showed "no Russian influence" and were viewed as derivatives of prominent European contemporaries, especially of Mendelssohn. Despite the fact that commentator after commentator has repeated this assertion, almost as if it were a litany, it is nonetheless not entirely accurate. Although he was not part of the so-called emergent Russian national school as led by Rimsky Korsakov, it is not true that there is no Russian influence to be found in his music. This influence is just not as pronounced as in the works of Borodin, Mussorgsky or of Korsakov himself. However, listeners to Rubinstein's music, including String Quartet No.2, will not only hear the influence of Mendelssohn, but also hear Russian melody and rhythm of the sort used by Borodin and others 20 years later.

Rubinstein was a prolific composer writing in nearly every genre. Chamber music figures prominently amongst his works. He wrote 10 string quartets, at least 5 piano trios, a string quintet and a string sextet as well as several other chamber works.

Like his other quartets, this one too is filled with fresh and strikingly beautiful melodies which both players and listeners alike will enjoy.

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Emanuel Aloys Förster, String Quintet No.3 in E flat Major, Op.26

Emanuel Aloys Förster "I came across Emanuel Aloys Förster’s three string quintets in the 1928 Memorial Edition of the Survey of Austrian Composers, Volume 67 where they were reprinted. They were originally published in 1802 in Vienna and are closer to concertante rather than polyphonic style. But while the first violin is given, as was typical for this time, much of the thematic material, all of the instruments are given solos. These quintets can be especially recommended to amateur players who will be sure to enjoy them. The opening Allegro vivace of Opus 26 is full of exciting forward motion and a give and take between all of the voices and especially the first violin and cello. The main theme of the following Andante, though simple in form is a lovely folk melody. And though not so marked is followed by a set of variations. A typical Menuetto, allegretto is characterized by rising and falling scale passages. The trio section provides fine contrast The rousing finale, Presto, has the quality of a quick racing ride."

—The famous chamber music critic Wilhelm Altmann writing in his Chamber Music Handbook.

Emanuel Aloys Förster (1748-1823) was born in Niedersteine in the province of Silesia which at the time was part of the Austrian empire. Little is known of Förster’s musical training other than the fact that he was proficient on the organ, piano, violin, bass and oboe and that he began composing at an early age. From the several hundred works he composed, it appears that in his early works, he came under the influence of C.P.E. Bach. His later works show the influence of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven. Sometime around 1779, he arrived in Vienna where he remained for the rest of his life working as a teacher of piano and composition. He was also a frequent performer in various Viennese ensembles. He was on friendly terms with Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven among others, From the various concert program posters which survive from that era, we know that his string quartets, of which he wrote nearly 50, were often performed on programs with those of his more famous friends. He wrote four works for string quintet, three actual quintets and a sonata fantasie. The Op.26 Quintet in E flat Major is the last of the three and was composed sometime during the 1790’s and published just after 1800.

When asked why he never wrote a string quintet, Haydn replied that no one ever asked him for one. This Förster quintet bears many similarities to the work of Haydn, though it is certainly not imitative and is fresh and original sounding. Chamber music players looking for a work from the late Viennese Classical Period would do well to make this quintet's acquaintance.

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Friedrich Kuhlau, Piano Quartet No.2 in A Major, Op.50

Friedrich Kuhlau Friedrich Kuhlau's Piano Quartet No.2 in A Major was written two years after the first and at the conclusion of four months of study in Vienna. It seems that, both in form and style, this quartet shows the marked influence of the Vienna Classics, especially Schubert. In four movements, it begins with an Allegro which showcases the piano rather more than the earlier work although the writing is still quite good for the strings. The movement starts off sounding rather classical but quickly switches into a dramatic, Romantic idiom. The Adagio is strikingly beautiful, filled with Schubertian perfume. The rhythmically driving Scherzo, it must be said, anticipates what Schubert did in his piano trios. The short and contrasting trio section with its use of a Lãndler also foreshadows what the Viennese master was later to do in his most mature works. The finale, Allegro di molto flits along lightly at a very good clip, again scale passages are featured prominently. It is a strong, concise and effective last movement.

Friedrich Kuhlau (1786-1832), often called the “Beethoven of the Flute”, is well-known to flute players, if few others, for the many fine pieces that he composed for that instrument. Though it is generally assumed, by those who have heard of him, that he was a flute virtuoso, ironically, he never played the instrument. Born in Germany, after being blinded in one eye in a freak street accident, he studied piano in Hamburg. In 1810, he fled to Copenhagen to avoid conscription in the Napoleonic Army, which overwhelmed the many small principalities and duchies of northern Germany, and in 1813 he became a Danish citizen. Outside of several lengthy trips which he took, he resided there until his death. During his lifetime, he was known primarily as a concert pianist and composer of Danish opera, but was responsible for introducing many of Beethoven’s works, which he greatly admired, to Copenhagen audiences. Considering that his house burned down destroying all of his unpublished manuscripts, he was a prolific composer leaving more than 200 published works in most genres.

Beethoven, whom Kuhlau knew personally, exerted the greatest influence upon his music. Interestingly, few of Beethoven’s contemporaries showed greater understanding or ability to assimilate what the great man was doing than Kuhlau. Certainly with regard to form, Kuhlau was clearly able to make sense and use what Beethoven was doing in something as advanced as his Middle Period. Thus, for those encountering his chamber music for the first time, there is always a surprise at how fine the music is structurally and also how well he handles the instruments. Beyond this, he definitely had, like Mozart, Schubert or Hummel, a gift for wonderful melodies which bubble forth from his music effortlessly.

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