Wednesday, January 9, 2013

A Major Reason to Be Happy

Although it is not the VERY next thing on the agenda, the Dvorak Piano Quintet in A Major is proving to be  just the thing to break me out of vacation mode. As I think of all the piano quintets there are, and the fact that I have only played Schumann’s iconic opus, I wonder how I have lived so long and not met this gem. The piano quartet repertoire is actually quite broad; some very well-respected composers have dogs in the race, but sadly, some of those works are just that: dogs. Dvorak’s quintet compared to the other “Best of Breed” entries in the genre is happier than Brahms’, deeper than Franck’s, prettier than Shostakovich’s; the tunes just won’t leave you alone. We have been piecing it together at American Piano Gallery out at Turkey Creek; what a perfect rehearsal space.

The first movement is probably the best because it starts with a cello solo. Haha! Anyways, the mood swings frequently between warm and fuzzy to restless and urgent. The movement’s second theme is startlingly similar to that of the last movement of Brahms’ 3rd Symphony, a piece written just four years earlier. F# minor is the flavor of the second movement, a dumka. A “folk-legend/-ballad” is the best translation I can muster for that word, with the time I have. Thematically speaking, Nat King Cole’s monster hit Nature Boy comes straight out of this, I think we can all agree on that. The furiant third movement is a rollicking Slavonic Dance in A with a trio section that is sooooo Christmasy... (I really don’t understand why they call it a trio, I mean, all five of us are playing...) The last movement is excitable, has a killer fugato section and has some chorale playing that will remind you of a hurdy-gurdy. The joy and grace flow like Pilsner Urquell at a Masopust celebration.

This work represents Dvorak in his prime. It’s hard to believe that in his day, some unscrupulous publishers would print later opus numbers on his works in an effort make him appear a less accomplished composer. The video of the first movement I am posting is from Washington, and on it are two old colleagues from the mid-90's KSO: violinists Zino and Natasha Bogacek, although Natasha is playing viola! Good to see old friends.

And good to play music with friends. Gabe Lefkowitz's Concertmaster Series January edition will take place next Wednesday and Thursday nights, the 16th and 17th, at 7:00 at Remedy Coffee in the Old City. He will present solo works by Bach and Ysaye as well. Single tickets are still available for Thursday night.

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