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Quintet for Piano and Strings Op.42

Louis Vierne (b. 1870 - d. 1937)

Composer
Louis Vierne (b. 1870 - d. 1937)
Composition Year
1917
Work Movements
1. Poco lento - Moderato
2. Larghetto sostenuto
3. Maestoso - Allegro risoluto
Artists
Danish Quartet (Frederik Øland, Rune Sorensen [violins], Asbjørn Nørgaard [viola], Fredrik Sjölin [cello]), Philippe Cassard [piano]

Programme Note Writer:
© Francis Humphrys

I am constructing … a Quintet of vast proportions, which will give full expression to my tenderness

and the tragic destiny of my child … The wild and furious energy with which I am tackling this task

matches the depth of my grief, and I will make something powerful, grandiose and strong … Perhaps one who has suffered every grief, every bitterness, every anguish, may be able to ease and console the sufferings of others—that is the role of the artist …’ Louis Vierne on composing his Piano Quintet

Louis Vierne was not blessed with great good fortune, he was born almost completely blind and suffered an extraordinary litany of personal disasters from a life-threatening accident, typhoid, divorce, death of his youngest son from TB, almost complete loss of his remaining sight and in 1917 the loss of his surviving son killed in action. Alone and almost sightless he threw himself into composing this Quintet in his memory.

The Quintet is cast in three massive movements as if the distraught father needed an enormous space to encompass the immensity of his sorrow. The slow introduction is restrained, piano and strings alternating in an ominous and impenetrable darkness until the main theme unfolds in the strings to a rippling piano accompaniment. An arresting motto theme leads directly into the second subject, a stunningly beautiful inspiration in the cello that expands from tenderness to an outspoken grief welling up from the depths. The solo piano opens the development with nervous semiquavers holding off the impatient strings leading to an extended treatment of the deeply moving second subject. The recapitulation returns to the menace of the slow introduction before launching into a torrential outburst that strains the five instruments to their limit. Eventually the second subject returns dolce and the movement sinks to a gentle close.

The Larghetto opens with a father’s muted lamentation until the piano abruptly attempts to fragment the mood of restrained sorrow. The melody is taken up again by the strings until the mood is again disturbed but leading almost inevitably to the shattering central climax. Gradually the movement winds down with tolling piano chords and gentle echoes of the lament in the strings but with all passion spent.

The finale opens with vicious piano chords that the strings try in vain to mollify, string tremolandi then lead to a recall of the opening movement until this comparatively quiet opening is abruptly shattered by the big, expansive main theme bursting in. The music is driven relentlessly forward until the central section is heralded by a piano solo recalling Liszt’s La Lugubre Gondola, muted string chords, a bell-like piano and other funereal effects. Then the main theme catches fire once again and pounds to a decisive finish.

 

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Quintet for Piano and Strings Op.42

Composer: Louis Vierne (b. 1870 - d. 1937)
Performance date: Saturday 3rd July 2010
Venue: Bantry House Library, Bantry, Co. Cork, Ireland,

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Composer Louis Vierne (b. 1870 - d. 1937)
Work Title Quintet for Piano and Strings Op.42
Composition Year 1917
Work Movements 1. Poco lento - Moderato
2. Larghetto sostenuto
3. Maestoso - Allegro risoluto
Artist(s) Danish Quartet (Frederik Øland, Rune Sorensen [violins], Asbjørn Nørgaard [viola], Fredrik Sjölin [cello]), Philippe Cassard [piano]
Performance Date Saturday 3rd July 2010
Performance Venue Bantry House Library, Bantry, Co. Cork, Ireland,
Event Finale
Duration 00:30:25
Recording Engineer Anton Timoney, RTÉ lyric fm
Instrumentation Category Piano Quartet/Piano Quintet
Instrumentation pf, 2vn, va, vc
Programme Note Writer © Francis Humphrys

I am constructing … a Quintet of vast proportions, which will give full expression to my tenderness

and the tragic destiny of my child … The wild and furious energy with which I am tackling this task

matches the depth of my grief, and I will make something powerful, grandiose and strong … Perhaps one who has suffered every grief, every bitterness, every anguish, may be able to ease and console the sufferings of others—that is the role of the artist …’ Louis Vierne on composing his Piano Quintet

Louis Vierne was not blessed with great good fortune, he was born almost completely blind and suffered an extraordinary litany of personal disasters from a life-threatening accident, typhoid, divorce, death of his youngest son from TB, almost complete loss of his remaining sight and in 1917 the loss of his surviving son killed in action. Alone and almost sightless he threw himself into composing this Quintet in his memory.

The Quintet is cast in three massive movements as if the distraught father needed an enormous space to encompass the immensity of his sorrow. The slow introduction is restrained, piano and strings alternating in an ominous and impenetrable darkness until the main theme unfolds in the strings to a rippling piano accompaniment. An arresting motto theme leads directly into the second subject, a stunningly beautiful inspiration in the cello that expands from tenderness to an outspoken grief welling up from the depths. The solo piano opens the development with nervous semiquavers holding off the impatient strings leading to an extended treatment of the deeply moving second subject. The recapitulation returns to the menace of the slow introduction before launching into a torrential outburst that strains the five instruments to their limit. Eventually the second subject returns dolce and the movement sinks to a gentle close.

The Larghetto opens with a father’s muted lamentation until the piano abruptly attempts to fragment the mood of restrained sorrow. The melody is taken up again by the strings until the mood is again disturbed but leading almost inevitably to the shattering central climax. Gradually the movement winds down with tolling piano chords and gentle echoes of the lament in the strings but with all passion spent.

The finale opens with vicious piano chords that the strings try in vain to mollify, string tremolandi then lead to a recall of the opening movement until this comparatively quiet opening is abruptly shattered by the big, expansive main theme bursting in. The music is driven relentlessly forward until the central section is heralded by a piano solo recalling Liszt’s La Lugubre Gondola, muted string chords, a bell-like piano and other funereal effects. Then the main theme catches fire once again and pounds to a decisive finish.