Friedrich Kuhlau

Friedrich Kuhlau (1786-1832)

Nationality: German | Danish
Born: September 11, 1786, Uelzen Died: March 12, 1832, Copenhagen (age 45)

Piano Quartet No. 1 in c minor, Op. 32

(for violin, viola, cello and piano)
16:17 I. Allegro
8:29 II. Adagio
8:42 III. Finale. Allegro
Duration: 34 minutes (approximately)
Composed: 1820-1821 (age 33-35)
Published: 1821 (age 34-35)
Dedication: Andreas Romberg
2 recordings, 6 videos
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Copenhagen Piano Quartet
I. Allegro
Copenhagen Piano Quartet
II. Adagio
Copenhagen Piano Quartet
III. Finale. Allegro
Elisabeth Westenholz, Tutter Givskov, Lars Grunth, Asger Lund Christiansen
I. Allegro
Elisabeth Westenholz, Tutter Givskov, Lars Grunth, Asger Lund Christiansen
II. Adagio
Elisabeth Westenholz, Tutter Givskov, Lars Grunth, Asger Lund Christiansen
III. Finale. Allegro
From Edition Silvertrust

Friedrich Kuhlau Friedrich Kuhlau's Piano Quartet No.1 in c minor, Op.32 dates from 1820. The opening Allegro, to this three movement work, is on a grand scale and is probably longer than the remaining two movements which follow. The writing is certainly as advanced as Beethoven’s The Geistertrio, Op.70. Kuhlau is said to have been partial to scale passages and here they are prominently featured. The Adagio, whose first theme is a simple folk melody, is extraordinarily beautiful and full of lyricism. The concluding Allegro is a rondo which begins in c minor and is full of dramatic rhythmic drive leading to a very original and bright finish. Though the piano is given some bravura passages and even a cadenza in the first movement, it must be emphasized that the writing for the strings is good and for the whole ensemble extremely effective.

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.

© Edition Silvertrust. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Related Composers

1800 Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) Johann Hummel (1778-1837) Friedrich Kuhlau (1786-1832) Franz Schubert (1797-1828) Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
friend, colleague
Nationality: German
Baptized: December 17, 1770, Bonn Died: March 26, 1827, Vienna (age 56)