The Piano Quartet and Quintet: Style, Structure, and Scoring

The Piano Quartet and Quintet: Style, Structure, and Scoring

The Piano Quartet and Quintet: Style, Structure, and Scoring

The Piano Quartet and Quintet: Style, Structure, and Scoring

Synopsis

Designed as a companion volume to the author's earlier study, The Piano Trio, this book surveys the development of the piano quartet and quintet from their beginnings in the mid-eighteenth century to the present day. Developments during the first four decades of the nineteenth century resulted not only in Schubert's renowned Trout Quintet, but also in works of much brilliance by Dussek, Hummel, Weber, and others in which the piano predominates in a concerto-like role. Subsequently, Schumann's epoch-making quintet of 1842 initiated a broadly "symphonic" style, with large-scale structures and closely integrated textures, which was taken up by many later composers, including Brahms, Dvorak, Cesar Franck, Faure, and Elgar. The author also examines the numerous changes in the nature of the genres which have occurred in recent times, and gives special consideration to a number of works by leading twentieth-century composers, in which "mixed" media are formed by combining wind instruments with the normal strings-and-piano ensembles.

Excerpt

As its main title implies, this book is concerned primarily with works for the standard quartet and quintet ensembles, with piano and strings. However, no strict limitation is placed upon the range of the genres under survey, and where appropriate, reference is made to compositions which embrace larger or more varied resources. This is particularly the case in the final chapter where attention is focused on 'mixed-ensemble' works of twentiethcentury origin, in which wind instruments are combined with the strings and piano, with the involvement in some cases of as many as seven performers. At the same time, since the number of works in these categories is far too large to be handled comprehensively within the limited space available, detailed consideration is reserved for what may be called the 'cornerstones' of the repertoire, while less prominent compositions, of passing relevance to the discussion, are introduced on an ad hoc basis, and in more general terms.

In surveying this extensive range of music I have taken a broadly historical viewpoint, but have made no attempt at a complete history. The aim has been rather to explore, in a wide-ranging manner, the overall concept of large-scale chamber composition with piano, especially in relation to structure and scoring, and to other aspects of technique. Such an approach has necessarily involved a considerable amount of descriptive analysis, and to assist with this a number of music examples are provided. But in order to reach a fuller grasp of the matters under discussion, the reader is advised to avail himself, wherever possible, of scores and recordings of the works under review -- which in the case of the principal works at least, are usually readily available from libraries.

A youthful experience, turning pages for the pianist in a performance of Brahms's A major Piano Quartet, Op. 26, engendered in me a love of chamber music which, sixty years later, while no doubt less uncritical, has remained quite undiminished. Writing about music is almost certainly a more lowly pursuit than performing, composing, or even simply listening to it with deep . . .

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