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Piano Quartet in B flat major, Op 41

'Saint-Saëns: Chamber Music' (CDA67431/2)
Saint-Saëns: Chamber Music
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Movement 1: Allegretto
Track 9 on CDA67431/2 CD1 [7'15] 2CDs
Movement 2: Andante maestoso ma con moto
Movement 3: Poco allegro pi¨ tosto moderato
Movement 4: Allegro

Piano Quartet in B flat major, Op 41
The quartet form presented a challenge to Saint-Saëns. As early as 1875, Saint-Saëns composed his Piano Quartet in B flat major Op 41, which remained his last foray into this medium. This quartet was actually the second complete piano quartet composed by Saint-Saëns. In 1851–3 he had written a Piano Quartet in E major which he performed but which was not published until it was recently resurrected and published posthumously in 1992. Saint-Saëns himself premiered the Op 41 Quartet on 6 March 1875 at Salle Pleyel with Pablo de Sarasate, Alfred Turban and Léon Jacquard. The year 1875 marked several momentous occasions in the life of Saint-Saëns: his marriage to Marie-Laure Truffot, the birth of his son André, the composition of his biblical poem Le Déluge and the Fourth Piano Concerto, and the first performance of his symphonic poem Danse macabre.

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 ę 2005

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Details for CDA67431/2 disc 1 track 11
Poco allegro pi¨ tosto moderato
Recording date
30 July 2004
Recording venue
Henry Wood Hall, London, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Recording engineer
Hyperion usage
  1. Saint-SaŰns: Chamber Music (CDA67431/2)
    Disc 1 Track 11
    Release date: May 2005
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