Piano Quintet in f minor, Op.95
Wilhelm Berger (1861-1911) was born in Boston but returned to Germany with his family within a year of his birth. He grew up in Bremen where he received his first lessons in voice and piano. A scholarship allowed him to study with the famous composition teacher Friedrich Kiel in Berlin at the Hochschule für Musik. After graduating, he held a number of teaching positions, including that of Professor of Composition at the Royal Academy. He also served as director of the famous Meiningen Court Orchestra. Berger, though his compositions had won many prizes and were often performed, did not quickly achieve the fame he deserved. Highly respected by the cognoscenti, he never self-promoted or advertised himself with the wider musical public as did several others. Fame finally did start to come, but just at the moment of his death, at which time he was starting to be regarded, along with Max Reger, as Germany's most important successor to Brahms. Unfortunately, the First World War and its aftermath, led to a total lack of interest for many decades of nearly all romantic composers, and the reputation of those who were less well-known such as Berger, never really recovered.
The Piano Quintet dates from 1904 and was composed shortly after his Trio for Clarinet, Cello and Piano. As with the Trio, it is tonally is more advanced than Brahms but not quite so advanced as Reger. The editor of The Chamber Music Journal described the Quintet as follows:
“Masterpiece is not a word to be to bandied about lightly, but of its genre, this work qualifies. The opening Allegro non troppo ed energico is massive and breathtakingly broad in conception, lasting nearly 20 minutes but its leisurely captivating themes hold the listener throughout. The Poco Adagio which follows is also a big movement. The part writing is very fine and his total mastery of compositional technique is apparent. The third movement, Molto Vivace, is an excellent scherzo which goes well beyond the limits of Brahms. The concluding Allegro moderato e con brio again is also a big movement. Here is a chamber work conceived on the scale much like a Mahler symphony.”
This is unquestionably a work which belongs in the repertoire and on the concert stage. Experienced amateurs will also gain tremendous enjoyment from it. Long out of print, we are pleased to make it available once again.