Piano Quartet No.2 in D Major, Op.124
By the time Mel Bonis came to write her Piano Quartet No.2 in D Major, she was 69 years old and in poor health, not to mention having been in a depressed state for several years due to the death of her youngest son in World War I and of her husband. Completed in 1927, Bonis published the work at her own expense the following year. It was never publicly performed in her lifetime and although she considered it her musical testament, sadly it has never gained any traction, even in France.
The opening Moderato begins in a quiet and reflective fashion and remains so for several minutes. The main theme consists of a long, slowly rising scale passage. At brief moments, Bonis tries to expand the limits of tonality. The second theme is more traditional and easily discernable. In the Allegretto which follows, we hear the definite influence of the Impressionists, but it is worth remembering that Bonis was a generation older than the impressionists and only adopted their style partially. The mood of the movement barely changes, but sparklingly exotic touches create good interest. The slow movement, Lent, has a lovely long-lined, lazy melody for its main theme. The piano part, not only here, but throughout the quartet creates great interest. While the music up until this point has been mostly calm and reflective, the finale, Allegro, pushes forth with power and a real sense of drama, echoing Gabriel Fauré. ---The Chamber Music Journal
Mel Bonis (Melanie Helene Bonis 1858-1937) was born in Paris. She was an unquestionably gifted composer, who nonetheless has been long underrated. She used the pseudonym Mel Bonis because she rightly felt women composers of her time weren't taken seriously as artists. Her music represents a link between the Romantic and Impressionist movements in France. Her parents discouraged her early interest in music but she taught herself to play piano. A friend introduced her to Cesar Franck, who was so impressed with her abilities, he made special arrangements for her to be admitted to the then all-male Paris Conservatory in 1876. She won prizes in harmony and accompaniment and showed great promise in composition, but a romance with a fellow student, Amedee Hettich, caused her parents to withdraw her from the institution in 1881. Two years later they forced her to marry another man and she was locked into raising a family. It was only several years later that she was able to return to composing. Her early works created a sensation in the fashionable Parisian salons where her music was played. Although much praised, she never entered the first rank of her contemporaries not because she was a woman but also because she lacked the necessary vanity for self-promotion. As a result, by the time of her death, she and her music had fallen into obscurity. She composed over 300 works in most genres. Finally, in the 1960s, historians began to re-examine the contributions of women composers and this set the stage for Bonis's posthumous reputation.
Our edition is basically a reprint of the original with a few changes to facilitate performance. It would do well in concert and could also enjoyed by experienced amateurs.