Max Reger, Piano Quartet No.2 in a minor, Op.133

Max Reger Reger's Piano Quartet No.2 in a minorwas composed some four years after his first in 1914. The opening movement, Allegro con passione, is melancholy and muted, creating a mournful effect with outbursts of emotion. The second movement, Vivace, is lighter and brighter scherzo with a mysterious sounding trio section. Next comes a Largo con gran espressione. The mood is somber and the music has a religious feel to it. The finale, Allegro con spirito, combines moments of sunshine with darker more brooding episodes.

Max Reger (1873-1916) was born in the small Bavarian town of Brand. He began his musical studies at a young age and his talent for composition became clear early on. His family expected him to become a school teacher like his father and to this end passed the necessary examinations for certification. However, before he landed his first teaching job, he met the eminent musicologist Hugo Riemann, who was so impressed by Reger’s talent that he urged him to devote himself entirely to music. Reger studied with him for nearly five years. By 1907 Reger was appointed to the prestigious position of Professor of composition at the Leipzig Conservatory. In addition to this he was widely regarded as one of the best living conductors and organists. In a career that only lasted 20 years, Reger wrote a prodigious amount of music in virtually every genre except opera and the symphony. Chamber music figures prominently within his oeuvre.

This work belongs in the concert hall but can be managed by experienced amateur players as well.

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Vissarion Shebalin, String Quartet No.9 in b minor, Op.58

Vissarion Shebalin Despite the fact that in 1960, while completing his Eighth String Quartet, Shebalin was told by his doctors that he had but minutes to live, he nonetheless managed to survive for another three years. Thus it was that in 1963, two months before his death, he completed his String Quartet No.9 in b minor, Op.58 which was not an easy task given that he had suffered a stroke in 1953 which had paralyzed right side. Not to be deterred, he taught himself to write with his left hand. The Quartet begins with a lengthy, brooding, somewhat astringent Largo. The main section is a lighter, restless Allegro. The middle movement, Andante, alternates between rhythmic pizzicato episodes and more lyrical arco interludes. The finale, Allegro molto, after a short dissonant, chordal introduction, features a nervous theme which is contrasted by a slower, questing, lyrical subject.

Vissarion Shebalin (1902-63) was born in Omsk, Siberia where he began his musical studies. Later at the Moscow Conservatory, he studied under Myaskovsky. During the 1920’s he was attracted by modernism, but during the 1930’s he was drawn to traditionalism with its attachment to folkloric melodies. By 1942, he was appointed director of the Moscow Conservatory. When Stalin came to power, Shebalin was forced, as were all of the other major Soviet composers, to find some sort of modus vivendi with Socialist Realism. Although his music is well-known within Russia, it is virtually never heard outside of it. Chamber music always interested Shebalin and constitutes a sizable part of his output. His nine string quartets span the length of his entire career from student right up until his death. They are an important body of work which deserves to be better known and to be performed.

This is another important Soviet string quartet. Within Russia the quartets of Shebalin are held in the highest regard. It surprising that they have never made a mark abroad. This quartet deserves to be heard in concert but can be managed by amateurs as well.

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Alexander Zemlinsky, String Quintet in d minor

Alexander Zemlinsky Zemlinky began work on his String Quintet in d minor in 1894. Simultaneously, he was working on a symphony, a string quartet and a trio for clarinet, cello and piano which became his Opus 3. By 1896 he had only completed two movements. Sketches to the two final movements are said to have existed but were lost and have yet to surface. After completing the second movement, he put the quintet down and did not return to it, and after meeting Schoenberg, under whose influence he fell, his style completely changed and he apparently did not wish to compose in what had become to those of the Second Vienna School, old fashioned music. The opening movement, Allegro, is written on a large scale. It is dramatic, passionate, stormy and turbulent and often comes close to breaking the bounds of chamber music and rises to a feverish almost orchestral pitch. There are many contrasting, lyrical episodes which are sweet and warm. The second movement, Prestissimo, mit humor, appears to have been conceived as the quintet’s scherzo. It is lively, exciting and genial. It, too, at times pushes the boundaries of chamber music and inches toward the orchestral. Even though there are only two movements, the scale on which the quintet was written has made it as long as a standard three or four movement work.

During his lifetime, Alexander Zemlinsky (1871-1942) was very highly regarded not only as a composer but also as a teacher and conductor. His works are an authentic testimony of the turbulent developments in music between 1890 and 1940. He stands between times and styles but in this intermediary position he found a rich, unmistakable, musical language. His personality and work epitomize one of the most fascinating epochs of art in Europe. Zemlinsky was born in Vienna. His musical talent became evident at an early age and he was enrolled at the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde Konservatorium (Conservatory of the Society of the Friends of Music) when he was 13 years old. There he studied piano and composition. He was greatly influenced by Johannes Brahms, who at the time was serving as President of the Gesellschaft. Not much later, Zemlinsky also met Arnold Schoenberg. The two became close friends. Zemlinsky gave Schoenberg lessons in counterpoint, thus becoming the only formal music teacher Schoenberg would have. Later, Schonberg married Zemlinsky's sister. By 1900, Zemlinsky was firmly established as an important, though not a leading, musical figure in Vienna. He worked both as a composer and conductor. However, though he did well, he was unable to achieve the major success he had hoped for and therefore left for Prague in 1911. In Prague, he held the important post of opera conductor of the Deutsches Landestheater until 1927. He became well-known as a perceptive interpreter of Wagner, Bruckner, Mahler, and Schoenberg. In 1927, he moved to Berlin to take up a position as a conductor of a major opera house. In 1933, he returned to Vienna where he remained until 1938, before emigrating to New York.

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Jean Cras, Piano Trio

Jean Cras 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.

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.

The Piano Trio dates from 1907. The opening movement, Modérément animé, begins rather darkly in the lower registers of all the instruments. But beneath the plodding rhythm burns hidden passion. The second movement, Lent, is subtitled Chorale, and indeed, from the opening chords of the piano, we hear an updated version of a Bach chorale. Somber and reflective, the piano sets the tone with its long introduction. When the violin and later the cello enter with their long-lined cantilena melody, the music takes on aura of a Bachian aria. Very different in mood and feel is the lively Trés vif. The main theme is a sea shanty but with modern tonalities. The finale, also marked Trés vif, begins as a fugue. The theme has a jaunty military air about it.

This is a very interesting and original trio which is clearly a first rate work. We hope that professionals will bring it into the concert hall, while at the same time recommending heartily it to experienced amateurs.

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Eduard Franck, String Sextet No.2 in D Major, Op.50

Eduard Franck Of Franck’s Second Sextet, the famous chamber music critic Wilhelm Altmann states:

"This sextet belongs in the concert hall. It demonstrates that its composer was a master of musical form and in possession of a gift which allows him to produce strong and noble melodies.”

Eduard Franck (1817-1893) was born in Breslau, the capital of the Prussian province of Silesia. He was the fourth child of a wealthy and cultivated banker who exposed his children to the best and brightest that Germany had to offer. Frequenters to the Franck home included such luminaries as Heine, Humboldt, Heller, Mendelssohn, and Wagner. His family’s financial position allowed Franck to study with Mendelssohn as a private student in Dusseldorf and later in Leipzig. As a talented pianist, he embarked upon a dual career as a concert artist and teacher for more than four decades during the course of which he held many positions. Although he was highly regarded as both a teacher and performer, he never achieved the public recognition of his better known contemporaries such as Mendelssohn, Schumann or Liszt. As fine a pianist as the first two and perhaps even a better teacher, the fact that he failed to publish very many of his compositions until toward the end of his life, in part, explains why he was not better known. Said to be a perfectionist, he continually delayed releasing his works until they were polished to his demanding standards. Schumann, among others, thought quite highly of the few works he did publish during the first part of his life.

The opening to Sextet No.2, Allegro, is spacious and written on a large scale. Despite the strong presence of chords in the cellos, the music is not particularly heavy sounding. The second theme bears a remarkable likeness to one of the prominent melodies from Smetana's The Moldau. The gorgeous, funereal second Adagio molto espressivo e sostenuto which comes next is clearly an elegy. Its sad main theme is extraordinarily beautiful. The third movement, Allegro, begins as a heavy-footed scherzo. But before long, it evolves into an elves dance. Soon the elves and ogres are dancing together. The attractive finale, Allegro molto, might almost be a tribute to Mendelssohn both melodically and rhythmically.

The first and only edition of this work was published in 1894. We have corrected the many serious errors which unfortunately occurred in that edition. It with great pleasure that we reintroduce this work after more than a century of its being unavailable. Professionals and amateurs alike will find that it makes a very welcome addition to the known sextet literature.

In addition, we are pleased to offer this Sextet in a version for 2 Violins, 2 Violas, Cello and Bass. Our bass part was made by Anthony Scelba, noted bass soloist, Professor of Music and Director of the Concert Artists Program of Kean University. Professor Scelba has rendered the cello unisons in octaves and his close attention to detail gives this work an entirely new and fresh perspective, making it a welcome addition to the double bass chamber music repertoire.

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Mel Bonis, Soir, matin for Piano Trio, Op. 76

When Saint Saëns, after hearing this work, remarked to its dedicatee Jean Gounod, "I never thought a woman could write something such as this. She knows all the clever tricks of the composer's trade," this was both a compliment and a sad commentary on the fact that women composers were basically ignored and regarded as second rate.

Mel Bonis (Melanie Helene Bonis 1858-1937) was born in Paris. gifted but long underrated composer. She used the pseudonym Mel Bonis because she rightly felt women composers of her time weren't taken seriously as artists. Her music represents a link between the Romantic and Impressionist movements in France. Her parents discouraged her early interest in music and she taught herself to play piano until age 12, when she was finally given private lessons. A friend introduced her to Cesar Franck, who was so impressed with her abilities he made special arrangements for her to be admitted to the then all-male Paris Conservatory in 1876. She won prizes in harmony and accompaniment and showed great promise in composition, but a romance with a fellow student, Amedee Hettich, caused her parents to withdraw her from the institution in 1881. Two years later she married and raised a family. Then in 1893 she again encountered Hettich, now a famous critic; he urged her to continue composing and helped launch her career in fashionable Parisian salons, where her music made a considerable stir. Saint Saens highly praised her chamber music and could not believe that it had not been composed by a man. Although her music was much played and praised she never entered the first rank of her contemporaries as she probably would have because she lacked the necessary vanity for self-promotion. It did not help that she was a woman. As a result, by the time of her death, she and her music had fallen into obscurity. She composed over 300 works in most genres. Finally, in the 1960s, historians began to re-examine the contributions of women composers and this set the stage for Bonis's posthumous reputation.

Soir-Matin (evening and morning), composed in 1907 is in two movements. It presents two different moods. A cantabile, singing melody dominates the material in Soir which evokes a mostly calm, peaceful evening atmosphere. In contrast, Matin though quiet, features a restlessness, characteristic of awakening, which is continually heard in the sparkling running notes of the piano. It is full of chromaticism and unusual modulations that push but to not pass the boundaries of traditional tonality.

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Reinhold Gliere, String Quartet No.4 in f minor, Op.83

Reinhold Gliere Today, the reputation of Reinhold Gliere (1875-1956) (sometimes spelled Glier) rests primarily upon his symphonies, ballets and operas, however his many chamber music works are widely regarded as of the highest quality by those who are familiar with them. Gliere was born in the then Russian city Kiev. He began his musical studies there with the famous violin teacher Otakar Sevcik, among others. He then went to the Moscow Conservatory where he studied with Sergei Taneyev, Anton Arensky and Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov. His superb compositional technique was quickly recognized by his teachers and he won several prizes for his early works, including his First String Sextet which took the prestigious Glinka Prize from a jury consisting of Rimsky-Korsakov, Glazunov and Liadov. Gliere, himself, taught at the Moscow and Kiev conservatories for nearly 40 years. Among his many successful students were Khachaturian, Prokofiev and Miaskovsky.

Of Gliere's chamber music, the respected scholar and critic Professor Sabaneievwrote:

"His chamber compositions show him to have been an absolute master of form, and a virtuoso in his control of the resources of musical composition and expression...He excelled as a melodist and his themes often reveal the contours of the Russian style which he understood so well. He had a masterly knowledge of the instruments and of their resonance, hence his chamber works are astonishingly rich and well written."

String Quartet No.4 in f minor, Op.83 was composed in 1943. Tonally, though it is separated by nearly twenty years from No.3, the language is pretty much the same. This is a late Romantic era work. The main theme to the opening movement, Allegro moderato, sounds Russian. Though lyrical, at times, it is mostly edgy and nervous with long frantic quick passages. The second movement, Vivace, is lighter than the preceding movement, but it could not really be described as playful. There is an interesting contrasting trio. Next comes an Andante, which is a theme and eleven finely contrasting variations. The theme is quite romantic, the variations showcase Gliere's masterly compositional technique. The finale, Allegro, bursts forth with a series of loud chords which then lead to a type of restless, fugue. Slower and very romantic interludes provide fine contrast. This is a good work which deserves concert performance and can also be recommended to accomplished and experienced amateur players.

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Sigismund Thalberg, Piano Trio in A Major, Op.69

Sigismund Thalberg Sigismund Thalberg (1812-1871) was born in Pâquis near Geneva, Switzerland. Born out of wedlock, his father was a prince, his mother a baroness who was a brilliant amateur pianist and it generally thought that she became his primary teacher. By the time he finally took some lessons from the famous virtuoso Ignaz Moscheles at the age of 14, Moscheles was of the opinion that Thalberg needed no further lessons to become a great artist. He subsequently became one of Europe’s leading piano virtuosi, generally considered the equal of Liszt , though some such as Mendelssohn and Onslow thought him better. One of the main differences between Thalberg and Liszt was that Thalberg did not engage in overweening showmanship. His repertoire remained rooted in the classics and he often performed in chamber music ensembles.

The bulk of his compositions were for the piano, however, he did write a few works for violin and piano as well as this piano trio. As a frequent performer of chamber music, Thalberg realized that excessive virtuosic displays were out of place in chamber music and saved those for his piano works. Instead, one finds in his trio that all three instruments are treated in true chamber music style. Composed in 1853, the work is in three movements and begins with a richly scored Allegretto molto moderato. The gorgeous but leisurely themes take their time to reach a dramatic climax. In the second movement, Andante cantabile, the piano is held entirely in the background—extraordinary for a composer who was a piano virtuoso. All of the action is in the string parts. The writing is redolent of Schubert and Schumann, but it even out does them in the way the piano in is held check. Certainly, this is one of the most beautiful movements in the romantic era literature. The finale, Allegretto ma non troppo, begins as a scherzo but slowly morphs into a true allegretto only to periodically return to the style of a scherzo. Again, the fine writing for all three instruments is on display.

This is a first rate piano trio from the mid romantic era which is deserving of concert performance. It is no way beyond amateurs who are also encouraged to make its acquaintance.

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Valborg Aulin, String Quartet No.1 in F Major

Valborg Aulin Valborg Aulin's String Quartet No.1 in F Major dates from 1884. It was dedicated to the Albert Rubenson, director of the Swedish Royal Academy of Music and a then prominent Swedish composer. The somewhat lengthy first movement, Allegro con grazia is both lyrical and romantic. The second movement, Intermezzo, Allegro con spirito e capriccioso, is a very original sounding scherzo showing the influence of Mendelssohn. The Andante espressivo which follows is attractive and well written. The finale, Allegro vivace, is jocular and full of forward motion.

During her lifetime, Valborg Aulin (1860-1928) was overshadowed by her younger brother Tor Aulin who was for several decades one of Europe's foremost violinists. She began as a pianist but went on to formally study composition between 1877-82 at the Royal Academy in Stockholm where her teachers included Hermann Berens and Ludwig Norman. Scholarships enabled her to travel to Copenhagen where she was able to study with Niels Gade, and then to Paris where she took lessons from Benjamin Godard and Jules Massenet. After completing her studies, she embarked upon a composing career based in Stockholm for the next twenty years during which she initially had some small critical success but ultimately had less and less as time went on. Finally, she gave up in defeat and moved to the provincial city of Örebro where she spent the rest of her life eking out a living as a music teacher. She wrote two string quartets.

Life is not always fair. Valborg Aulin was a competent composer who wrote finished works which were not only pleasing to hear but also fun to play. Certainly her String Quartet No.1 is an example, a good work deserving concert performance and a place on the stands of home music makers.

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Sir Arthur Sullivan, Duo Concertante for Cello and Piano, Op.2

Arthur Sullivan One does not generally associate the words chamber music with Sir Arthur Sullivan (1842-1900). He did however compose several chamber works. Virtually all of them were composed in his youth. Sullivan studied at the Royal Academy of Music’s where he was the first Mendelssohn Scholar, which allowed him to attend the Leipzig Conservatory where he studied with Moscheles among others. Sullivan was regarded as a very promising classical composer.

The cello seems to have been Sullivan’s favorite solo instrument and he himself owned a cello and his brother Frederic, with whom he was close, played the cello semi-professionally. Sullivan only wrote one concerto and it was for the cello. The other substantial recital piece he composed was also for the cello, his Duo Concertante, dating from 1868. Although it is in one movement, there are two sections. It begins with a bold Andante and is followed by an extended Allegro moderato. The work bursts with melody and boasts a marvelous interplay between the instruments which the title of the work suggests.

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Hubert Parry, Cello Sonata in A Major

Charles Hubert Hastings Parry Charles Hubert Hastings Parry (1848-1918) was born in Bournemouth, England. As far as music went, he received some lessons on the piano as a youth but did not formally study music. He was educated Eton and Oxford and though he showed an extraordinary aptitude for music, he took a degree in law and modern history as his father wanted him to have a career in commerce. From 1870 to 1877 he worked in the insurance industry, but at the same time studied with William Sterndale Bennett, and later with the pianist Edward Dannreuther when Brahms proved to be unavailable. After leaving the insurance industry, Parry became a full-time musician and during the last decades of the 19th century was widely regarded as one of England’s finest composers. In the 1890s he became director of the Royal College of Music and was appointed Professor of Music at Oxford. Among his many students were Gustav Holst, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Frank Bridge and John Ireland.

His Cello Sonata in A Major was completed in 1880 and later revised in 1888. It is a highly romantic work, which shows the influence of Brahms and Schumann, though the musical ideas are definitely English. The opening movement, Allegro, has two long-lined themes. The elegant middle movement, Andante, opens with a brooding and somewhat elegiac vein but is later supplanted by a livelier and more passionate animato section. The finale, Maestoso-allegro, opens with a slow, lugubrious introduction. The main section is based on a long phrased melody which has a hint of a waltz in it.

This is an important example of a late 19th century Romantic British cello sonata. It is well written for both instruments and can be recommended to both amateurs and professionals.

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Herbert Howells, Rhapsodic Quintet for Clarinet & String Quartet, Op.31

Herbert Howells Howells' Rhapsodic Quintet for Clarinet and String Quartet dates from 1919. It is in one movement and consists of one long flowing series of song-like melodies. However, it is highly organized, and there is no difficulty in spotting the two main themes and following their exposition, development and recapitulation. ‘Rhapsodic’ refers more to the overall one-movement shape, which encompasses a number of contrasting moods or phases. Howells himself described the Quintet as having a mystic quality, which may be sensed at the outset in the impassioned unison theme that sweeps upwards. This provides the first principal idea of the work. In contrast to this is a tender, tranquil falling theme introduced by the clarinet and echoed by the violins in longer notes. Shortly after the first climax a short, side idea appears, again on the clarinet. The music quickens but gradually, toward the end, slows in tempo, turns calm and ends serenely.

Herbert Howells (1892-1983) was born in Lydney, Gloucestershire. His father was an amateur organist, and Herbert himself showed early musical promise. He attended the Royal College of Music where he studied with Charles Villiers Stanford, Hubert Parry and Charles Wood. Stanford considered Howells one of his most brilliant and gifted students and persuaded him to enter the first Carnegie Trust composition competition in 1916. His Piano Quartet in a minor, Op.21 won first prize. He subsequently taught at the Royal College of Music and later at London University.

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Herbert Howells, Phantasy String Quartet, Op.25

Herbert Howells It was during the decades between 20 and 40 that Herbert Howells focused his efforts chiefly on orchestral and chamber music. The Phantasy String Quartet dates from 1924. It features a cyclic approach to the presentation of the thematic material. It is in one continuous movement, however, it goes through many changes of mood. The melodic material is folkloric in nature and its development is similar to that which Liszt called metamorphosis.

Herbert Howells (1892-1983) was born in Lydney, Gloucestershire. His father was an amateur organist, and Herbert himself showed early musical promise. He attended the Royal College of Music where he studied with Charles Villiers Stanford, Hubert Parry and Charles Wood. Stanford considered Howells one of his most brilliant and gifted students and persuaded him to enter the first Carnegie Trust composition competition in 1916. His Piano Quartet in a minor, Op.21 won first prize. He subsequently taught at the Royal College of Music and later at London University.

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Erkki Melartin, Six Pieces for Piano Trio, Op.121

Erkki Melartin (1875-1937) was born in the Finnish town of Käkisalmi. He studied with Martin Wegelius in Helsinki and then in Vienna with Robert Fuchs. He pursued a career as a composer, conductor and teacher, serving as the director of the Helsinki Conservatory. He was a prolific composer who wrote in most genres. His music shows the influence of Mahler and is primarily written in the late, post Brahmsian idiom. He did not ignore chamber music and composed a piano quintet, a string quintet, four string quartets and several short works for piano trio. Unfortunately, most of these have remained languishing in manuscript form in libraries and have not been published. His work, as the quartet clearly shows, is quite accomplished and indicates that he was a first rate composer whose music deserves to enter the repertoire and to be heard on a regular basis.

Erkki Melartin's Six Pieces for Piano Trio were originally composed for cello and piano. Shortly after they appeared, his publisher asked if he could make versions for violin and piano and for piano trio. This he did. Each pieces was dedicated to a different person or persons, friends and fellow musicians. Although they were composed in the early 1920s, they are clearly products of the Romantic era, Played together, they are the length of a standard piano trio, but any of the six would make a fine encore. These works are suitable for both professionals and amateur players.

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Felix Weingartner, Sextet in e minor, Op.33

Felix Weingartner Felix Weingartner (1863-1942) was born in Zara, Dalmatia, today's Zadar, Croatia, to Austrian parents. In 1883, he went to the Leipzig Conservatory where he studied composition with Carl Reinecke. He also studied privately with Franz Liszt in Weimar. Weingartner was one of the most famous and successful conductors of his time, holding positions in Hamburg, Mannheim, Danzig, Munich, Berlin and Vienna, where he succeeded Gustav Mahler as Director of the Imperial Opera. Despite his demanding career as a conductor, Weingartner, like Mahler, thought of himself equally as a composer and devoted considerable time to composition. He wrote several symphonies, numerous operas, some instrumental concertos, and a considerable amount of chamber music, including four string quartets, a piano sextet and a string quintet. Additionally he wrote a great number of vocal works and instrumental sonatas. Though many of his works originally achieved a fair amount acclaim, they quickly disappeared from the concert stage. It is only in the past few years that their excellence has been rediscovered.

The Piano Sextet was composed in 1904. It is a dark, brooding late romantic work written on a big scale. The first theme to the opening movement, Allegro appassionato, is a powerful, striving subject which dissipates before achieving a climax. Rather it leads to the dramatic second theme which is which is hopeful and optimistic. The second movement, Allegretto, begins as an intermezzo. The striking main theme is a lopsided, grotesque dance of the marionettes, accentuated by the rhythm. The second subject, in the violins, couldn't be more different, sweet and highly romantic. A third melody is calmer but also lovely. A slow movement, Adagio, comes next. Weingartner instructs that it is to be played as if improvising but in tempo. It begins with a long piano introduction which certainly creates the exact mood of a pianist improvising. Gradually, and quite softly, the strings enter, embellishing but not taking center stage from the piano. Finally, the piano fades into the background as the strings begin to rise. This leads to a quicker middle section, followed by a highly dramatic episode. The massive finale is simply titled Danza Funebre, with no tempo marking. The pounding introductory measures give no hint of the sad funereal dance which follows. Once can almost visualize a procession. From funereal the music moves on to the macabre. The gloom is only lightened briefly in the middle section which has a more elegiac quality.

This is a superb work, not to be missed on any piano sextet evening. Weingartner's Piano Sextet calls for the same combination as some other works we offer which you may wish to obtain so you can make a night of it. These include Mikhail Glinka's Grand Sextet, William Sterndale Bennett's Piano Sextet, Sergei Lyapunov's Piano Sextet, Paul Juon's Piano Sextet, George Onslow's Piano Sextet, Glinka's Divertimento Brillante and Henri Bertini's Piano Sextet No.3.

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Alexander Borodin, Piano Quintet in c minor

Alexander Borodin "Considering that Borodin was neither acquainted with Schumann's music (including his piano quintet) nor that of his Russian contemporaries (i.e. Rimsky-Korsakov, Mussorgsky, Balakirev etc.), his Piano Quintet must be considered an extraordinarily significant work. It shows imagination and boldness. In it, we can hear the seeds Prince Igor, along with the influence of Mendelssohn and Glinka with whom he was familiar."
—So wrote the respected Russian music critic Yevgeni Braudo.

While Alexander Borodin (1833-1887) is fairly well-known, it is his orchestral pieces and not his chamber music which has made his name. Nine out of ten people could not tell you that the famous Borodin melody in the popular Broadway musical Kismet is from his Second String Quartet. But Borodin wrote several lovely chamber music works. These fall into two distinct periods. The first is from his time in Germany during the late 1850's when he was doing post graduate work in chemistry. His main occupation was that of a Professor Chemistry at the university in St. Petersburg. Music was only a hobby he engaged in for relaxation. The second period dates from his time in St. Petersburg when he came under the influence of and received considerable help from Rimsky-Korsakov. Tchaikovsky was to quip, "Oh Borodin, a good chemist, but he cannot write a proper measure without Rimsky helping him."

The Piano Quintet was composed in 1862 while Borodin was vacationing in Italy after completing his his studies in Germany. It was one of the few works from this period that has survived in its entirety. In three movements, the Piano Quintet clearly shows Borodin’s musical imagination as well as his compositional skill. As such, it demolishes the argument that Tchaikovsky and other critics often bandied about, that Borodin either had no compositional skill, or what skill he had, he gained from Rimsky Korsakov and Mussorgsky.

The main theme of the first movement, Andante, based on a turn is clearly Russian sounding. Each voice has a chance to bring it forth. The second movement, Scherzo, begins with a fresh and lively subject first introduced by the viola. It sounds as if a fugue is about to begin, but Borodin surprises by almost immediately introducing the beautiful second theme. The Quintet closes with a very Russian sounding Allegro moderato.

The beautiful melodies Borodin brings forth coupled with the fine part writing make this a work which every Piano Quintet Party will want to try.

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Heinrich Anton Hoffmann, String Quartet No.2 in B flat Major, Op.3 No.2

Heinrich Anton Hoffmann (1770-1842) was born in the German city of Mainz. As his father was a court councillor to the Elector, he was well educated attending university and taking degrees in law and philosophy, all the while studying violin on which he became a virtuoso. He pursued a career as a concertmaster and Kapellmeister or Music Director of several important theaters, mostly in Frankfurt, where he got to know Mozart, who so admired his playing that the two of them often played chamber music together while Mozart was in Frankfurt. Hoffmann wrote some six string quartets which were clearly influenced by the Vienna Classical style of Haydn and Mozart.

String Quartet No.2 in B flat Major is the second of a set of three which came out in 1794, which were much like the works of the Wranitzky brothers and Franz Krommer. The work opens with an ominous Largo introduction leading to a very lively. The second movement, a typical south German Menuetto allegro sostenuto, somewhat slower than Haydn-type minuets. This is followed by an Andante with a set of four variations in which each instrument is given a chance. The finale is buoyant Rondo allegro scherzando.

Though once popular, the quartet has long been unavailable. We have reprinted the original edition of 1795 and though easily readable, it is not like a modern edition and our price reflects this fact. Here is a fresh work from the Vienna Classical era that makes a pleasant change from Haydn.

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George Onslow, String Quintet No.10 in f minor, Op.32

George Onslow Although the first 3 of Onslow's string quintets were for the standard 2 violins, 2 violas and cello, thereafter, his quintets, with the exception of his last three, were for 2 cellos and one viola. At the premiere performance of String Quintet No.10, which took place in London, the second cellist failed to show up. The audience grew restless waiting and begged Onslow, who was sitting with them, to take the part of cello II. Though he was an excellent cellist, he felt unprepared and did not wish to ruin the maiden performance. The famous bass virtuoso Dragonetti was also in the audience and people began shouting, let Dragonetti take the part. At first, Onslow refused, saying the bass would make it too heavy and ruin the effect. However, he eventually gave in and allowed Dragonetti, who sightread the part, to play. To his surprise, he was delighted with the effect and thereafter always included an alternate bass part in lieu of cello II. He also added an an alternate viola part in lieu of the first cello allowing the work to be performed as a viola quintet as well.

During his lifetime, Onslow, above all, was known as the composer of string quintets for 2 violins, viola and 2 cellos. With the exception of Boccherini, all of the other major composers before him, including Mozart and Beethoven, wrote string quintets for 2 violins, 2 violas and cello. (Schubert's great work remained undiscovered until 1850 and unknown for another decade after that.) Schumann and Mendelssohn ranked Onslow's chamber music with that of Mozart, Beethoven and Haydn. George Onslow (1784-1853), certainly illustrates the fickleness of fame. He was born the son of an English father and French mother. His 36 string quartets and 34 string quintets were, during his own lifetime and up to the end of the 19th century, held in the highest regard, particularly in Germany, Austria and England where he was regularly placed in the front rank of composers. His work was admired by both Beethoven and Schubert, the latter modeling his own 2 cello quintet (D.956) on those of Onslow and not, as is so often claimed, on those of Boccherini. As tastes changed after the First World War, his music, along with that of so many other fine composers, fell into oblivion and up until 1984, the bicentennial of his birth, he remained virtually unknown. Since then, his music, to the delight of players and listeners alike, is slowly being rediscovered, played and recorded. Onslow’s writing was unique in that he was successfully able to merge the drama of the opera into the chamber music idiom perfected by the Vienna masters.

String Quintet No.10 in f minor, Op.32 dates from 1827. The work begins with a substantial Largo introduction which at first creates a sense of foreboding and tension but then turns more lyrical and romantic. The main section, Allegro, is restrained but has the unmistakable Onslow forward drive and excitement. The Andante which follows is mostly calm and singing, but there are several turbulent interruptions. Third is one Onslow’s hard driving scherzos which Onslow titles Menuetto, allegro impetuoso. A minuet it is not, impetuous it certainly is, full of energy and excitement. The finale, Allegro agitato, bursts forth, racing at high speed, with hardly a moment for a breath.

This is another of Onslow's fine string quintets.

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Friedrich Ernst Fesca, String Quartet No.3 in B flat Major, Op.1 No.3

Friedrich Ernst Fesca Friedrich Ernst Fesca (1789-1826) was born in the German town of Magdeburg. He studied piano and violin with several different teachers, including for a short time Ludwig Spohr. By age 16 had already obtained a position as a violinist in the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra. Not long after, he was employed as solo violinist to the Court of Jerome Bonaparte, at that time, King of Westphalia. After this he lived for a while in Vienna where he befriended the famous violinist, Ignaz Schuppanzigh, first violinist of the famous Beethoven Razumovsky String Quartet. His final years were spent working in Karlsruhe along with fellow composer Franz Danzi. He composed in nearly every genre from opera to solo piano works, however, the bulk of his out put was chamber music. Carl Maria von Weber, writing of Fesca’s chamber music, had this to say. “Mr. Fesca is completely master of whatever he undertakes to express. I am fully convinced of his remarkable talent. His works are carefully written, thoroughly elaborated and richly flavored." Spohr, upon hearing a performance of one of the Op.1 string quartets called it a fine work full of talent.

String Quartet No.3 in B flat Major, Op.1 No.3 is the last of a set of three which appeared in 1806, It begins with a genial, tuneful Allegro. This is followed by a sweet Andantino. In third place is a Poco presto which starts off rather calmly but excitement quickly arrives. The finale, Rondo, is pleasant and charming conclusion. Fesca’s tuneful works were popular through out most of the first half of the 19th century, but like so many other good pieces disappeared for no real discernible reason. We are pleased to reintroduce an early quartet which certainly makes an excellent alternative to the inevitable Haydn or Mozart.

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Friedrich Dotzauer, Quartet in a minor for Flute, Violin, Viola & Cello, Op.38

Johann Justus Friedrich Dotzauer Encouraged by his father to pursue a musical career, Johann Justus Friedrich Dotzauer (1783-1860) studied the piano and violin before eventually choosing the cello as his main instrument. His talent was clear to all early on and he began giving concerts by the time he was fifteen. A few years later, he was serving as a cellist in the court orchestra of Meiningen. Eventually he was able to obtain the prestigious position of solo cellist in the Royal Orchestra at Dresden. His playing dazzled all who heard it, and his skills as a teacher resulted in what became known as the "Dresden school" of cello performance. He concertized to much acclaim throughout Germany, Austria, the Netherlands and France, continuing to perform in public right up until his retirement in 1850. Many of his students became famous cellists in their own right and include such names as Friedrich Grützmacher, Bernhard Cossmann and Julius Goltermann.

Dotzauer’s Quartet for Flute and Strings in a minor, Op.38 dates from 1816 and is the first of three such works he was to compose. The lovely and genial main theme to the opening Allegro con espressione, is introduced first by the flute and then given to the violin and then the cello. The middle movement, Andante, is calm and mostly peaceful. The finale, a Rondo allegro, us a pleasant affair with a clever fugue in the middle. While the flute takes the part that the first violin would have in a standard string quartet, this is by no means a show off work for flute. The other voices are given chances to shine.

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