I naturally visited de Filippi’s daughter frequently – the similarity of our upbringing and our passion for the same art could not but bring us together. Because of her interest in the piano I began for her a Sestetto Originale, but later on, having finished it in the autumn, I was compelled to dedicate it, not to her, but to a female friend of hers.
You see, I had to cease my frequent visits because they were exciting suspicion and gossip. De Filippi was not a little concerned at this, and in order to put a stop to the unhappy business a bit more smoothly, he purposely took me to see his daughter the last time; we rowed about Lake Maggiore for almost the entire day in rather unpleasant weather, which indeed more or less matched our low spirits.
This was to be one of his last ‘Italian’ works: ‘Longing for home led me, step by step, to think of composing like a Russian.’ The next year he headed north, to Vienna and Berlin, where he pursued his only systematic course of study, before returning to Russia in 1834. Two years later, A Life for the Tsar was performed to a rapturous reception, followed by Ruslan and Lyudmila; together they established a completely new Russian school.
The first movement of the Grand Sextet, Allegro, opens with a bold motto-theme in the piano, setting the tone for its dominant solo role throughout the work. A conventional structure in sonata form follows, with an elegant first subject and a suave second theme which first appears on the cello. The development is simple, but the recapitulation is unusual in that it brings the second theme back in the submediant (C major), a device which recurs in the finale.
The Andante is a delightful serenade in G major with a gypsy interlude on the violin for the middle section. It leads directly into the finale, Allegro con spirito, a vivacious movement, again in sonata form, with three main themes: the first is full of cross-accents and unexpected barring; the second has an unashamedly operatic accompaniment; and the third contains the only true ‘Russian’ touch in the work – an extended melody whose modal basis prevents it from settling in any one key.
from notes by Timothy Mason © 1985