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Piano Quintet No 1 in A major Op.5.

Antonin Dvořák (b. 1841 - d. 1904)

Jose Gallardo

Jose Gallardo

Composer
Antonin Dvořák (b. 1841 - d. 1904)
Composition Year
1870
Work Movements
1. Allegro, ma non tanto
2. Andante Sostenuto
3. Finale: Allegro con brio
Artists
José Gallardo [piano], Zemlinsky Quartet (František Souček, Petr Střížek [violins], Petr Holman [viola], Vladimír Fortin [cello])

Programme Note Writer:
© David Winter

In the 1860s when Dvo?ák was in his twenties and attempting to find his musical voice, the whole of Europe became overwhelmed by the music of Wagner; none more so than Dvo?ák. Fortunately he came to realise that the influence of Wagner was not always entirely desirable and, as a result, he tore up and burned many of his early works.  In these years, as Dvo?ák ruefully observed he did not lack for paper to keep warm. Indeed he believed he had burnt this early piano quintet.  It had been performed in Prague in 1872 and had been widely criticised. He rediscovered it in 1887 and realised that it contained much of value. He extensively revised it; substantially reducing the first two movements. So pleased was he with the result, that he immediately set out to compose a second piano quintet. This became the much better known Second Quintet, confusingly also in A major.

A major was one of Dvo?ák’’s favourite keys. At least since Mozart, works in A major have been largely sunny, lyrical and optimistic. They contain passion and drama but not despair and Dvo?ák sticks to this pattern here. The Quintet opens with the main theme of the first movement played slowly and quietly in octaves by the piano.  It has both grandeur and charm especially when taken up by the strings. Soon the music accelerates with forte arpeggios from the piano and the main theme is developed in a stormy linking passage.

The second subject is introduced over a piano accompaniment which could have from Schubert’s Trout soon to be followed by a haunting chromatic motif which certainly could not have done so. The development drives forward with some stormy climaxes alternating with quieter, slower but harmonically dramatic passages. The recapitulation begins with the main theme played in unison by the strings over pounding piano chords. Dvo?ák considerably shortened this part of the movement in his 1887 revision. There is no repeat of the Trout motif, the music drives on to a resounding conclusion.  

The second movement again opens with the piano which introduces the beautiful, calm, quietly contemplative main theme.  This is repeated in decorated form by the cello and is further developed throughout the movement where it does not always remain either calm or contemplative.  Here the Wagnerian modulations suit the material perfectly. The movement ends quietly and sublimely with a very short but exquisite coda.

The finale also acts as a scherzo. It is a rousing bohemian country dance. Its rumbustious energy shocked the Prague critics who had already taken exception to some of the bold modulations in the earlier two movements.  The mischievous main theme, a sturdier drinking song and syncopated cross rhythms all flash by. The uninhibited high spirits did not prevent Dvo?ák from using Wagnerian devices to add spice to this delightful romp, but there is no tragic longing and desire here. This finale is entirely about having a (very) good time.

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Piano Quintet No 1 in A major Op.5.

Composer: Antonin Dvořák (b. 1841 - d. 1904)
Performance date: Wednesday 2nd July 2014
Venue: Bantry House Library, Bantry, Co. Cork, Ireland,

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Composer Antonin Dvořák (b. 1841 - d. 1904)
Work Title Piano Quintet No 1 in A major Op.5.
Composition Year 1870
Work Movements 1. Allegro, ma non tanto
2. Andante Sostenuto
3. Finale: Allegro con brio
Artist(s) José Gallardo [piano], Zemlinsky Quartet (František Souček, Petr Střížek [violins], Petr Holman [viola], Vladimír Fortin [cello])
Performance Date Wednesday 2nd July 2014
Performance Venue Bantry House Library, Bantry, Co. Cork, Ireland,
Event Main Evening Concert
Duration 00:26:13
Recording Engineer Richard McCullough, RTE
Instrumentation Category Piano Quartet/Piano Quintet
Instrumentation pf, 2vn, va, vc
Programme Note Writer © David Winter

In the 1860s when Dvo?ák was in his twenties and attempting to find his musical voice, the whole of Europe became overwhelmed by the music of Wagner; none more so than Dvo?ák. Fortunately he came to realise that the influence of Wagner was not always entirely desirable and, as a result, he tore up and burned many of his early works.  In these years, as Dvo?ák ruefully observed he did not lack for paper to keep warm. Indeed he believed he had burnt this early piano quintet.  It had been performed in Prague in 1872 and had been widely criticised. He rediscovered it in 1887 and realised that it contained much of value. He extensively revised it; substantially reducing the first two movements. So pleased was he with the result, that he immediately set out to compose a second piano quintet. This became the much better known Second Quintet, confusingly also in A major.

A major was one of Dvo?ák’’s favourite keys. At least since Mozart, works in A major have been largely sunny, lyrical and optimistic. They contain passion and drama but not despair and Dvo?ák sticks to this pattern here. The Quintet opens with the main theme of the first movement played slowly and quietly in octaves by the piano.  It has both grandeur and charm especially when taken up by the strings. Soon the music accelerates with forte arpeggios from the piano and the main theme is developed in a stormy linking passage.

The second subject is introduced over a piano accompaniment which could have from Schubert’s Trout soon to be followed by a haunting chromatic motif which certainly could not have done so. The development drives forward with some stormy climaxes alternating with quieter, slower but harmonically dramatic passages. The recapitulation begins with the main theme played in unison by the strings over pounding piano chords. Dvo?ák considerably shortened this part of the movement in his 1887 revision. There is no repeat of the Trout motif, the music drives on to a resounding conclusion.  

The second movement again opens with the piano which introduces the beautiful, calm, quietly contemplative main theme.  This is repeated in decorated form by the cello and is further developed throughout the movement where it does not always remain either calm or contemplative.  Here the Wagnerian modulations suit the material perfectly. The movement ends quietly and sublimely with a very short but exquisite coda.

The finale also acts as a scherzo. It is a rousing bohemian country dance. Its rumbustious energy shocked the Prague critics who had already taken exception to some of the bold modulations in the earlier two movements.  The mischievous main theme, a sturdier drinking song and syncopated cross rhythms all flash by. The uninhibited high spirits did not prevent Dvo?ák from using Wagnerian devices to add spice to this delightful romp, but there is no tragic longing and desire here. This finale is entirely about having a (very) good time.