String Quintet in e minor, Op.75
The String Quintet Op.75 forms a valuable addition to the restricted number of good string quintets with two cellos. In this work, which won the Beethoven Society of Bonn Prize, the two cellos are very skillfully exploited with regard to beauty of tone; and, indeed, the work as a whole is remarkable for the beautiful treatment of the strings. There is an extraordinary mastery of forms, and, above all, on the intellectual side, the work is not merely praiseworthy, but of striking value. The first movement, Allegro con passione, opens straightaway with the pleasing principal subject which soon gives way to a powerful secondary theme, which in turn makes room for a graceful, lyrical third melody. The somewhat archaic sounding main subject of the second movement, Vivace scherzando, is presented in fugal form with delightful humor and skill. Next comes an Adagio with a melody of nobility and distinction. It is developed with the utmost of delicacy. In the finale, Molto vivace, the main theme is a heavily accented melody which resembles a tarantella.--Wilhelm Altmann, the famous chamber music critic, writing in Cobbett's Cyclopedic Survey of Chamber Music
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 String Quintet, which dates from 1899, has been out of print now for many decades. By making it available again, we hope both professionals and amateurs will consider adding it to their collections.