Schubertiade Day2 Frith Piano Quartet
Saturday, October 19
8:00 pm - 9:45 pm
Frith Piano Quartet with
Ben Frith (piano), Heidi Rolfe (piano), David le Page (violin), Robin Ireland (viola), Richard Jenkinson (‘cello).John Tattersdill (DoubleBass)
SCHUBERTIADE Saturday October 19th
Hummel – Piano Quintet in E flat Op. 87
- Allegro e risoluto assai
- Minuet e trio: Allegro con fuoco
- Finale: Allegro agitato
Johann Nepomuk Hummel (1778–1837) was a pupil and great friend of Mozart. In common with Beethoven, he studied with Albrechtsberger and Salieri and gained a reputation as a fine pianist. At the time of his tours of Europe as a child prodigy, he was even deemed more famous than Beethoven.
Written in 1802, this quintet is widely considered to be the foundation for most other 19thcentury compositions for the piano quintet. Schubert’s Trout Quintet, written 17 years later uses the same instrumentation. This work is almost Schubertian in character (although Schubert was only five years old at the time) and contrasts greatly to the more intense middle-period works Beethoven was composing at that time.
Although the designated key is E flat major, the piece opens and closes in the key of E flat minor. Being a virtuoso pianist, Hummel gives the piano a leading role and there are passages of virtuosic figuration.
Vaughan Williams – Piano Quintet in C minor
- Allegro con fuoco (C minor)
- Andante (E flat major)
- Fantasai (quasi variazioni). Moderato (C major)
Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) composed his piano quintet in 1903 for the same instrumentation as the Hummel and Schubert quintets. The work is very substantial and was revised in 1904 and 1905 following advice from Gustav Holst and the first performance was in 1905. The work often recalls Brahms and perhaps because of this the composer considered it an immature work and after the first world war banned its publication. Fortunately his widow lifted the ban in 1999 and the quintet has proved to be a fascinating insight into the development of one of England’s most distinctive composers.
The first movement is expansive and in its harmonies the influence of Brahms can be clearly heard. The expressive second movement is fully characteristic of the composer and the finale is a set of five contrasting variations.
SCHUBERT – Piano Quintet in A major D667 “The Trout”
- Allegro vivace(A major)
- Andante (F major)
- Scherzo: Presto (A major)
- Andantino – Allegretto (D major)
- Allegro giusto (A major)
In 1819, Franz Schubert (1797-1828) visited the Austrian town of Steyr in the company of his friend, the baritone Johann Vogl. Vogl was very enthusiastic about Schubert’s music and organised informal recitals (the original “Schubertiades”) at his friends houses where Schubert’s songs and piano works were very well received. One of Vogl’s friends was Sylvester Paumgartner, a wealthy music lover who staged concerts in his fine home. Paumgartner surprised Schubert by commissioning him to compose a new work, specifying the same instrumentation as Hummel has used for his quintet.
Schubert quickly composed the quintet which takes the conventional classical period four-movement format in sonata form to which he added a set of variations before the finale to create the unusual five-movement structure. Paumgartner was delighted with the result which is one of Schubert’s calm, worry-free pieces, consisting solely of nature and beauty, and not a hint of sadness or anxiety. The work’s unusual scoring, together with Schubert’s chosen style of piano-writing, (the two hands playing in octaves in the upper register of the instrument for much of the time), gives it a sound-world all its own. The work received its nickname from its fourth movement, where Schubert based the set of variations on the melody of one his own songs, “Die Forelle” (“The Trout”).
The beauty of this quintet was obvious at its first performance and it has rightly been highly regarded ever-since and indeed may be the most popular piece of chamber music ever written.