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Piano Quintet in G minor Op.34

Julius Zarębski (b. 1854 - d. 1885)

Danish String Quartet (photo credit: Caroline Bittencourt)

Danish String Quartet (photo credit: Caroline Bittencourt)

Composer
Julius Zarębski (b. 1854 - d. 1885)
Composition Year
1885
Work Movements
1. Allegro
2. Adagio
3. Scherzo
4. Finale
Artists
Danish Quartet (Frederik Øland, Rune Sorensen [violins], Asbjørn Nørgaard [viola], Fredrik Sjölin [cello]), Philippe Cassard [piano]

Programme Note Writer:
© Francis Humphrys

Julius Zar?bski comes from the great nineteenth century tradition of composer-virtuosos. Like all those great pianists he had a cosmopolitan education, born in Ukraine, studies in Vienna, St Petersburg and Rome, where he became Liszt’s favourite student. It was Liszt who encouraged him to compose, but his performance schedule took him all over Europe from Istanbul to London, including a celebrated appearance at the great Paris Exhibition of 1878. He wrote a certain amount of solo piano music, but the Piano Quintet was his magnum opus, written when he knew he was dying of tuberculosis.

For a work by a piano virtuoso it is remarkable that the piano is treated as primus inter pares rather than as a vehicle for spectacular virtuosity, very much in the manner of Brahms’ handling of the clarinet in his quintet from six years later. The movement develops with a wave of dramatic contrasts, great sweeping themes in strings and piano alongside introspective moments for solo strings, like the reflective musing by the cello midway through the development. The first subject is a big, lyrical theme full of power, while the second subject is gently melancholic. The recapitulation and coda see some impressive climaxes.

The Adagio is pure magic with a glorious murmuring effect in the strings to a strange off-beat accompaniment by the piano. The soulful main theme follows with expressive interplay amongst the strings. Unusually the piano solo opens the middle section in a bright G major, a section notable for delicacy as much as lyricism. The recapitulation of the main theme leads inexorably back to the enigmatic opening murmuring and a quiet close with a last glimpse of the main theme.

The madcap Scherzo opens with a crazy gallop that briefly unleashes the full quintet followed by a contrasting idea in 2/4. An unexpected fugal development follows leading to an expressivo trio before the gallop is allowed a brief return. Then just to confuse, the gallop is allowed to kick off the Finale, and we realise this movement is going to revisit the earlier movements. First a folk-like theme is introduced that acts as a rondo theme with a series of episodes that give increasing prominence to the soloist. Nothing is as expected, each idea is explored with fantasy and exuberance, with the final recollection of the opening movement acting as a moment of triumph.

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Piano Quintet in G minor Op.34

Composer: Julius Zarębski (b. 1854 - d. 1885)
Performance date: Tuesday 1st July 2014
Venue: Bantry House Library, Bantry, Co. Cork, Ireland,

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Composer Julius Zarębski (b. 1854 - d. 1885)
Work Title Piano Quintet in G minor Op.34
Composition Year 1885
Work Movements 1. Allegro
2. Adagio
3. Scherzo
4. Finale
Artist(s) Danish Quartet (Frederik Øland, Rune Sorensen [violins], Asbjørn Nørgaard [viola], Fredrik Sjölin [cello]), Philippe Cassard [piano]
Performance Date Tuesday 1st July 2014
Performance Venue Bantry House Library, Bantry, Co. Cork, Ireland,
Event Main Evening Concert
Duration 00:35:39
Recording Engineer Richard McCullough, RTE
Instrumentation Category Small Mixed Ensemble
Instrumentation pf, 2vn, va, vc
Programme Note Writer © Francis Humphrys

Julius Zar?bski comes from the great nineteenth century tradition of composer-virtuosos. Like all those great pianists he had a cosmopolitan education, born in Ukraine, studies in Vienna, St Petersburg and Rome, where he became Liszt’s favourite student. It was Liszt who encouraged him to compose, but his performance schedule took him all over Europe from Istanbul to London, including a celebrated appearance at the great Paris Exhibition of 1878. He wrote a certain amount of solo piano music, but the Piano Quintet was his magnum opus, written when he knew he was dying of tuberculosis.

For a work by a piano virtuoso it is remarkable that the piano is treated as primus inter pares rather than as a vehicle for spectacular virtuosity, very much in the manner of Brahms’ handling of the clarinet in his quintet from six years later. The movement develops with a wave of dramatic contrasts, great sweeping themes in strings and piano alongside introspective moments for solo strings, like the reflective musing by the cello midway through the development. The first subject is a big, lyrical theme full of power, while the second subject is gently melancholic. The recapitulation and coda see some impressive climaxes.

The Adagio is pure magic with a glorious murmuring effect in the strings to a strange off-beat accompaniment by the piano. The soulful main theme follows with expressive interplay amongst the strings. Unusually the piano solo opens the middle section in a bright G major, a section notable for delicacy as much as lyricism. The recapitulation of the main theme leads inexorably back to the enigmatic opening murmuring and a quiet close with a last glimpse of the main theme.

The madcap Scherzo opens with a crazy gallop that briefly unleashes the full quintet followed by a contrasting idea in 2/4. An unexpected fugal development follows leading to an expressivo trio before the gallop is allowed a brief return. Then just to confuse, the gallop is allowed to kick off the Finale, and we realise this movement is going to revisit the earlier movements. First a folk-like theme is introduced that acts as a rondo theme with a series of episodes that give increasing prominence to the soloist. Nothing is as expected, each idea is explored with fantasy and exuberance, with the final recollection of the opening movement acting as a moment of triumph.