Alexis de Castillon
Piano Quartet in g minor, Op.7
Alexis de Castillon (1838-1873) was born in the French city of Chartres. As a member of the nobility his parents initially expected him to have a military career, which for a time he pursued, joining the imperial cavalry. However, his love of music, which came from the piano lessons he had received as a boy, led him to enter the Paris Conservatoire where he ultimately studied with César Franck. His health, always of a fragile nature, was not helped by his military service in the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-71. His health deteriorated and he never really recovered.
He composed several chamber works which his contemporaries considered to be first rate. Vincent d’Indy called him one of the best chamber music composers of his time. The Op.7 Piano Quartet was completed in 1869 and dedicated to the Russian pianist Anton Rubinstein. The chamber music of Robert Schumann began to be performed in France during the 1860’s and while it generally met with hostility, Castillon was immensely impressed by it and one can hear that composer’s influence on this work.
The opening Larghetto, with its succession of chromatic chords creates a mood reflective melancholy. The main section of the first movement, Allegro, opens in turbulent, impassioned fashion. However, the slower reflective opening section suddenly returns before the appearance of the lyrical second theme. The second movement, Scherzando, begins in a rather subdued fashion, sounding more like a minuet than a little scherzo. It is the impassioned trio section with its fine string writing which leaves a stronger impression. The third movement is actually two bound together. It begins as an engaging Mendelssohnian song without words Larghetto quasi marcia religioso. A highly romantic second theme is full of pathos. It eventually leads to the lively Finale which is played without pause. The music is boisterous and with a sense of ceremony.
Out of print for over a century, we have reprinted the original edition, however, we have added rehearsal letters and corrected a few mistakes. This is a worthy addition to the early French romantic piano quartet repertoire.