THE STRING QUINTET, IN F MAJOR
IT WAS quite characteristic of Bruckner that he wrote his first and only piece of chamber music when he was fifty-four. If it had required firm resolve on his part to write symphonies without any training in symphonic composition through previous works of a smaller size, the writing of a string quintet entailed certain dangers, for he had created five great symphonies yet had no experience at all in the new field of chamber music. Decsey makes the following criticism of the work: "In this composition the symphonist prevails over the composer of chamber music, who manipulates the five instruments as though they were an orchestra."
The question as to what the true style of chamber music is can be answered from different standpoints. Here I shall emphasize only one side of the matter. The palette of the composer of this kind of music has, of course, only a limited number of colors which he can give to his ideas. His creative imagination will not be restricted thereby but, rather, stimulated towards a sort of invention determined by the available means. Ideal chamber music is born out of the spirit of a few instruments which, alternating in solo and ensemble playing, prove that tone volume and variety in tone color are secondary means of expression in music. The greatest power of expression rests on other factors in keeping with the specific nature of music.
Although one can hardly say Bruckner was a born chamber-music composer -- the single piece of chamber music, the Quintet, denies it -- Decsey's criticism does not seem fully justified. The beginning of the First Movement (Moderato) was conceived in the very mood of chamber music. No other body could render the principal idea as well as those five string instruments. Noteworthy is the fact that in this com-