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List: The Piano Quartet / Quintet. Smallman
Antonín Dvořák

Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904)

Nationality: Czech
Born: September 8, 1841, Nelahozeves, Bohema Died: May 1, 1904, Prague (age 62)

Piano Quintet No. 2 in A major, Op. 81, B.155

(for 2 violins, viola, cello and piano)
12:14 I. Allegro ma non tanto
13:03 II. Dumka. Andante con moto
4:11 III. Scherzo (Furiant). Molto vivace
7:42 IV. Finale. Allegro
Duration: 38 minutes (approximately)
Composed: 1887 (age 45-46)
Premiere: January 6, 1888. Prague
Published: 1888, Berlin: N. Simrock (age 46-47)
Dedication: Dr B. Neureuther
10 recordings, 28 videos
autoplay
41:36
Jansen and friends
8:58
Jascha Heifetz, Sanford Schonbach, Gregor Piatigorsky, Jacob Lateiner
I. Allegro ma non tanto
9:47
Jascha Heifetz, Sanford Schonbach, Gregor Piatigorsky, Jacob Lateiner
II. Dumka. Andante con moto
3:33
Jascha Heifetz, Sanford Schonbach, Gregor Piatigorsky, Jacob Lateiner
III. Scherzo (Furiant). Molto vivace
6:32
Jascha Heifetz, Sanford Schonbach, Gregor Piatigorsky, Jacob Lateiner
IV. Finale. Allegro
14:59
Pavel Haas Quartet, Pavel Nikl
I. Allegro ma non tanto
14:17
Pavel Haas Quartet, Pavel Nikl
II. Dumka. Andante con moto
4:22
Pavel Haas Quartet, Pavel Nikl
III. Scherzo (Furiant). Molto vivace
8:30
Pavel Haas Quartet, Pavel Nikl
IV. Finale. Allegro
13:57
Emerson String Quartet, Menahem Pressler
I. Allegro ma non tanto
14:03
Emerson String Quartet, Menahem Pressler
II. Dumka. Andante con moto
4:14
Emerson String Quartet, Menahem Pressler
III. Scherzo (Furiant). Molto vivace
7:35
Emerson String Quartet, Menahem Pressler
IV. Finale. Allegro
13:10
Panocha Quartet, Schiff
I. Allegro ma non tanto
13:02
Panocha Quartet, Schiff
II. Dumka. Andante con moto
4:15
Panocha Quartet, Schiff
III. Scherzo (Furiant). Molto vivace
7:50
Panocha Quartet, Schiff
IV. Finale. Allegro
35:57
Ilya Itin, et. al.
37:56
Guarneri Quartet, Rubinstein
13:26
Concertante
I. Allegro ma non tanto
13:04
Concertante
II. Dumka. Andante con moto
4:14
Concertante
III. Scherzo (Furiant). Molto vivace
7:34
Concertante
IV. Finale. Allegro
14:31
Carmina Quartet, Gheorghiu
I. Allegro ma non tanto
13:50
Carmina Quartet, Gheorghiu
II. Dumka. Andante con moto
4:25
Carmina Quartet, Gheorghiu
III. Scherzo (Furiant). Molto vivace
7:44
Carmina Quartet, Gheorghiu
IV. Finale. Allegro
42:44
Borodin Quartet, Richter (complete)
From Kai Christiansen

Antonin Dvořák, 1841-1904

Piano Quintet in A Major, Op.81, 1887

Antonin DvořákDvorák's sublime Piano Quintet in A Major occupies a lofty place in the chamber music canon shared perhaps only by two other works for the same ensemble from Schumann and Brahms. All three works feature the mighty sounds of a string quartet paired with a grand piano, a sonic grandeur matched only by the magnificent scale and span of these mountainous masterworks, epic in their expressiveness. It is always impossible, if not in poor taste, to suggest that one of your children is your favorite, but it is tempting to name Dvořák's as the finest of these three astonishing siblings. His dynamic handling of the ensemble is superb in terms of color, the fluid intermixing of vivid, individual parts with a transparent texture using a brilliant range of scoring techniques. Throughout, the muscular drama freely intermixes with numerous sections of pure, euphoric beauty with a constant interlacing of magical dance music abounding with spontaneity and vitality. Dvořák's direct and poignant lyricism begins with the very first measures for piano and cello and it continues to bubble up in fresh new springs of melody: in pools fountains and waterfalls across all four movements. To the ample ensemble, the color, the melody, the rhythmic vitality and the fine ensemble balance, add a brilliant handling of form in conjunction with Dvořák's unmistakable voice, so natural, genuine and bright, and you have one of the greatest chamber music works ever written.

The opening sonata movement is stretched between two vivid poles, an effusive, intimate lyricism, tender to the point of breaking, and a sinewy, driving restlessness that sustains gigantic trajectories of force. The cello sings a soulful, intimate outpouring that is answered, only after a vast expanse of music development, by a kindred violin. This unforgettably haunting tune reappears in many guises but always like a little, distant island awash in a sea that intermittently provides a glimpse before hiding it again in a swelling wave of motion. The forceful sea has its own signature themes that are by turns troubled and exultant. Dvořák's handling of dramatic sonata form is masterful: the entire exposition flows unbroken in a single sustained gesture into the ensuing development and return home, so satisfying with its sense of complete exploration, fecundity and fruition.

The slow movement Dumka is a Dvořák specialty: from an widely dispersed folk ballad tradition in Eastern Europe, a somber, slow lament alternates with music of much greater vitality whether flowering into a beatific smile or kicking high in lively village folk dance. Dvořák would shortly extend this simple but effective two-part vehicle into a complete work, a suite of six Dumka movements comprising the piano trio of the same name. The most colorful textures of the quintet are found within this movement as they steadily shift and refocus the ensemble character and mood to accentuate the alternating sections of a thematically rich rondo. Central to Dvořák's art are the distinctive individual roles played by each of the instruments, blended and balanced together while always set apart in strong relief from each other for a crystal clear texture. At least as long in duration as the sprawling first movement, both movements occupy a good two thirds of the entire work.

The scherzo is a fleet marvel of mirth, athletic bounding joy, light as a feather with an effervescent grace. The trio provides one of Dvořák's most magical moments of bliss, a little glade of Eden that hovers airborne like a halo. Though at first its seems to occupy a completely different world from the frantic frolic of the scherzo sections, this inner heaven of music is made from exactly the same notes as its outer counterparts, the same melodies and motifs slowed way down into a miraculously transformed variation that reverberates with memories of its former self. The parenthetical title Furiant evokes another folk dance frequent in Dvořák's music, in this case, referring to the vivacity of scherzo itself, refined, stylized and distilled from its original rustic inspiration.

The finale places Dvořák's music in the long line that flows from Schubert and Mendelssohn to Schumann and Brahms. Like Schubert, Dvořák finishes a massive work with yet another miniature cornucopia of musical fruits, several new colorful and wonderfully shaped musical ideas including, like Schubert and Brahms, a mercurial flickering between major and minor keys as quickly as each successive phrase. The opening gestures are pure Brahms. The climatic fugato, a rather formal burst of grandiose counterpoint recalls Schumann's mighty quintet specifically while the brief but surprising chorale near the end recalls Mendelssohn in many of his works, chamber and otherwise. In some ways the most traditionally "developed" of the four movements in terms of rhetorical storm and stress, tension and release, it nonetheless has much simple and special tunefulness that distinguishes almost all of Dvořák music, a warm, friendly familiarity with a touch of déjà vu, a sure sense of coming home though we may never have been there before.

© Kai Christiansen Used by permission. All rights reserved.


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