Magazine article Strings

Long-Neglected Chamber Work Brought to Life in Scholarly Edition

Magazine article Strings

Long-Neglected Chamber Work Brought to Life in Scholarly Edition

Article excerpt

LONG-NEGLECTED CHAMBER WORK BROUGHT TO LIFE IN SCHOLARLY EDITION JOSEPH SUK: PIANO QUARTET IN A MINOR, OP. 1. Bärenreiter, euro29.50.

Mozart began the trend toward piano quartets, adding his favorite instrument, the viola, to the more usual combination of the time-piano, violin, and cello. Since then, Beethoven, Schumann, Dvorak, Brahms, and Fauré have added their models to the repertoire. Less well known is the piano quartet by Czech composer Josef Suk (1874-1935).

Passing the violin entrance exams to the Prague Conservatory in 1885 at 11 years of age, Suk and three fellow-students (who later joined him in the celebrated Bohemian String Quartet) were given the opportunity to extend their course to include composition classes. Dvorak had begun teaching there in 1891 and, recognizing the boy's precocious talent, he set Suk to the task of writing a piano quartet.

It was met with enthusiasm by critics and audience alike at its first performance, echoing Dvorak's prophecy that his pupil (and later, son-in-law) was destined for great things. He deemed the 17 year old's quartet to "excel in its richness of ideas, its dramatic character, and thematic sophistication, revealing a musician of considerable maturity."

A classmate, Novak testified to Suk's "youthful zest, fervent emotions, and gentle charm." These attributes are indeed found in abundance in the Piano Quartet. The dedicatee is one Karel Dvorak, a Prague luthier who tended to Suk's instruments and later obtained a Stradivarius for him. …

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