Movement 1: Allegro con brio
Movement 2: Romanza: Andante sostenuto
Movement 3: Intermezzo: Allegretto
Movement 4: Finale: Allegro appassionato
The first movement is indicative of Zelenski’s ability to mould high lyricism with a strong sense of momentum. The piano plays a key role, while the string trio is often used in unison for maximum expressivity. The second theme is especially eloquent. Zelenski repeats the exposition, before pursuing a development of shifting tonalities and dramatic contrasts. Most subtly and seamlessly, he ushers in the recapitulation by starting it part-way through the first theme. As in the first movement of Zarebski’s quintet, the coda’s forward drive is interrupted for a last moment of lyrical reflection. There is an unusual diminuendo on the final open-fifth chord.
The Romanza in A flat that follows is a song without words, initiated by the cello. Its wistful tone gives way to a central idea played by the string trio, its searching semiquavers leading to an impasto-like texture that ranges from troubled to stormy. As this subsides, the opening theme floats in, molto tranquillo, although the recapitulation proper comes a little later. Zelenski treats this as an opportunity for further variation and drawing together of the movement’s themes.
Although the third movement in G minor is called Intermezzo, its roots lie in the mazurka, with its first-beat rhythm and second-beat punctuation. Zelenski’s take on this Polish dance is quirky. The movement begins off-key and off-beat and the air is one of whimsy rather than regular foot-stamping. A singing second idea in B flat interrupts the mazurka briefly. There are two contrasting episodes: dark string murmurings in E flat major, brought to order by the piano, and a scampering idea in G major, which also reappears to round off the movement.
The Allegro appassionato has all the hallmarks of a classic sonata finale. At heart it is a tarantella, surging forward even though there are lyrical temptations put in its way. The second subject, played by the piano in octaves, is a perky idea, sounding rather like a fugue subject. It in turn gives way to the high-flown lyricism familiar from earlier in the quartet. After the second subject is indeed treated to a brief fugato at the end of the development, Zelenski, as in the first movement, reintroduces the main theme, part-way through. A brief coda brings the quartet to a rousing end with a final motivic hint in the piano of its very first theme.
from notes by Adrian Thomas © 2012