Notes and Editorial Reviews
Strauss began writing his only Piano Quartet in the spring of 1884, and he completed it shortly before the work?s premiere at Weimar in December 1885. The piece won Strauss the first prize of 300 marks at a Berlin Composers? Society competition. That Strauss was proud of his early effort is indicated by the fact that he was still performing it on his 1921 American tour. The Piano Quartet was clearly influenced by the Brahms piano quartets, especially in the first movement Allegro, which displays the same kind of wonderful rhythmic and harmonic shifts, but with an added wistful lyricism that?s clearly a Strauss trademark. As the excellent booklet notes by Walter
Werbeck suggest: ?The entire work is impressive for the degree of perfection with which Strauss assimilates the Brahmsian sound, without relinquishing his own signature . . . throughout, Strauss shows fascinating confidence in meeting the traditional demands for expressive contrast: vigorous outer movements that climax dramatically, an effervescent scherzo, a broadly lyrical slow movement.?
The Piano Quartet has appeared in several CD recordings, including those by the Lyric Piano Quartet (Black Box), the Ames Piano Quartet (Dorian), and by members of the Sinhoffer Quartet with Wolfgang Sawallisch on piano (Arts). All of these strike me as more dutiful than inspired, while a recent Centaur CD account with the Mendelssohn Trio and violist Michael Stepniak (reviewed elsewhere) is rather fast and hard-boiled. Now we have this extraordinary 2005 recording by the Mozart Piano Quartet and, to my ears, it?s the first ever to reveal this minor masterpiece in all its glory. Pianist Paul Rivinius has a delicate touch and subtle rubato that remind me of Dario De Rosa?s exquisite playing with the old Trio di Trieste. The string-players (violinist Mark Gothori, violist Hartmut Rohde, and cellist Peter Hörr) are sweetly romantic and gorgeously lyrical in a manner that recalls the great Vienna Konzerthaus Quartet of yesteryear. This is the first recording by the reconstituted Mozart Piano Quartet (the group formerly had a different violinist and pianist). MDG?s recorded sound is state of the art.
the couplings are works for piano quartet that Strauss composed for performance in family gatherings. None of them is a masterpiece, but the pure charm quotient here is exceedingly high. If you savor the more salonish side of Schubert, you will surely find the
(1893) just as enjoyable.
(1893) is based on an Egyptian melody that Strauss heard while visiting North Africa. Barely two minutes in length, this piece has a remarkably odd demonic fury. Frankly, I never would have guessed Strauss as the work?s composer.
This altogether dazzling disc goes straight to my 2006 Want List. Highly recommended.
FANFARE: Jeffrey J. Lipscomb
Works on This Recording
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