Movement 1: Allegretto
Movement 2: Andante maestoso ma con moto
Movement 3: Poco allegro piý tosto moderato
Movement 4: Allegro
The cyclical Piano Quartet continues to be a staple in the repertoire for violin, viola, cello and piano. The majestic opening movement, Allegretto in common time, provides two themes of different character: the first somewhat improvisational in feeling with its interchanges between the piano and strings, the second an undulating melody more lyrical in nature. These themes are developed and repeated with the first bringing the movement to a pianissimo close. The slower second movement, Andante maestoso ma con moto in G minor, contrasts two motifs, the forceful rhythmic one enunciated by the piano and the chorale-like one in the strings, providing much dialogue, fugal entries, and imitations between the various voices in learned fashion. The third movement, Poco allegro più tosto moderato in D minor in 6/8, a scherzo in rondo form, starts in unison motion with unusual rhythmic effects increasing the tempo to Prestissimo and evaporating the sound to a pianissimo at the end. The grand Allegro finale is a spirited fantasy-like movement in duple time with many skilful contrapuntal effects. Elements of the theme of the Andante are included in the recapitulation, while in the coda the two themes of the Allegretto are joined by the chorale-like theme of the Andante and engage in a joyful fugato. Once again, as in the quintet he composed twenty years earlier, Saint-Saëns is inspired by cyclic form.
from notes by Sabina Teller Ratner © 2005