Archive for December, 2008

Mozart, String Quintet No. 3 in C Major, K. 515

Sunday, December 14th, 2008

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, 1756-1791

String Quintet No. 3 in C Major, K. 515, 1787

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart1787 was an extraordinary year for Mozart. With all of Vienna humming tunes from his beloved Figaro that debuted the year before, Mozart turned to work on what would become his operatic masterpiece, Don Giovanni. 1787 saw the completion and the debut of this towering work. Mid-way through the year, Mozart took a break and, in short order, composed a pair of string quintets that would eventually be regarded as his greatest chamber music masterworks, K. 515 in C Major and K. 516 in g minor. This same brief period brought the death of his father Leopold Mozart and the only meeting Mozart ever had with Beethoven who was, at the time, a young sixteen-year-old pianist from Bonn. Within a year of Don Giovanni and the quintets, Mozart would spend a few whirlwind weeks to write his three final symphonies, his greatest works in that form as well, curiously culminating with another pair of contrasting works in g minor and C Major. After all of this, Mozart was still only thirty-three years old, though it was now late in his terribly short life. (more…)

Brahms, Piano Quintet in f minor, Op. 34

Sunday, December 14th, 2008

Johannes Brahms, 1833-1896

Piano Quintet in f minor, Op. 34, 1865

Johannes BrahmsThe combination of string quartet and piano makes the piano quintet a singularly powerful ensemble as it joins two self-sufficient forces in a grand partnership. Occurring far less frequently in the repertoire than string or piano quartets, the great works for this medium are equally singular and powerful coming from the likes of Schumann, Franck, Brahms, Dvořák, Fauré and Shostakovich as the most noteworthy examples. While Brahms’s lone Piano Quintet in f minor, Op. 34 is on the short list of masterworks, it assumed its final form only after a great deal of tinkering. It began life in 1861 as a string quintet with two cellos. Brahms eventually destroyed this version and rescored it as a sonata for two pianos. With the feedback from several performances and the advice of his friends Clara Schumann and Joseph Joachim, Brahms finally settled on the present version for piano quintet that he published in 1865. Joachim would declare that it was the finest new chamber music work published since Schubert. A dark, mighty work of tremendous scope, it is generally considered to be Brahms’s great chamber music epic completed when he was only thirty-one. (more…)

Bridge, Two Pieces for viola and piano

Sunday, December 14th, 2008

Frank Bridge, 1879-1941

Two Pieces for Viola and Piano, 1908
Allegro appassionato

Frank BridgeFrank Bridge was an English composer who flourished during the early part of the 20th century. A student of Charles Stanford, Bridge was a generation younger than Edward Elgar, a contemporary of Ralph Vaughan Williams and a generation older than Benjamin Britten, one of his students. This places Bridge within a complex intersection of artistic and historical developments. The French music of Debussy and Ravel had a strong impact on Bridge’s generation which found a comfortable blend within a tradition of English “pastorale” music that emphasized a kind of foggy impressionism of modality, mist and melancholy. The new Viennese school of Schoenberg, Berg and Webern staged a musical revolution within Bridge’s lifetime that would strongly influence his own mature chamber compositions in a stylistic shift that would obscure his popularity. (more…)