Sextet No.3 in E Major, Op.90
Piano, 2 Violins, Viola Cello & Bass
Henri Bertini (1798-1876) was born in London but his family returned to Paris shortly after his birth. He first learned the piano from his father and his brother, a pupil of Muzio Clementi and was considered a child prodigy. After studies in composition, he was appointed professor of music in Brussels but returned to Paris in 1821. He enjoyed a career as a soloist, composer and teacher. He wrote close to 200 works with opus and many more without, most for piano. However, he did not ignore chamber music, writing several works for piano and various instrumental combinations from piano trios to a piano nonet. Among these are six piano sextets. Four of the six are for 2 violins, viola, cello, bass and piano. The other two are for violin, 2 violas, cello, bass and piano.
At one time, all of these sextets were fairly popular, but the only one which seems to have survived at least into the 20th century is Piano Sextet No.3 in E Major, Op.90 for 2 Violins, Viola, Cello, Bass and Piano, which dates from the mid 1830ís. In four movements, the piano is not, as is so often the case in works like this, primus inter pares. It by no means dominates affairs. In fact, the strings, which tend to be used en mass, are often entrusted with introducing and developing the thematic material while the piano weaves filigree accompaniment around them. The piano writing is extremely elegant and tasteful, in the style of Clementi, Mozart and Hummel so that one is almost unaware of some of the virtuosic passages given to it, unlike so many other such works which often border on the bombastic. But not here. There are lovely melodies galore and one clearly hears the influence of Hummel and Mendelssohn. The opening Allegro has a Mendelssohnian melody introduced by the strings over the pulsing accompaniment in the piano, which gives the music a sense of urgency. The second subject played also by the strings as a choir creates an orchestral effect. The second movement, Andante, is a lovely salon piece punctuated with short, very dramatic episodes which provide contrast. A Minuetto, presto comes next, but this is not a traditional minuet but rather a spooky scherzo which at times morphs into an intermezzo complete with a wonderfully contrasting, lyrical trio section. .The finale, Allegro, upbeat with its pulsing drum beat rhythm has a military quality. The second theme is a lament, full of pathos---Silvertrust Guide to Piano Quintets & Sextets. We have reprinted the 180 year old second edition by Simrock, cleaned it, removed water marks and corrected a few errors.
Bertini's Piano Sextet calls for the same combination as some other works we offer which you may wish to obtain (click on links) so you can make a night of it. These include William Sterndale Bennett's Piano Sextet, Mikhail Glinka's Grand Sextet, Glinka's Divertimento Brillante, Sergei Lyapunov's Piano Sextet, Paul Juon's Piano Sextet, George Onslow's Piano Sextet, and Felix Weingartner's Piano Sextet