Piano Quartet in a minor, Op.31
Georgy Catoire's Piano Quartet was composed in 1916 and is the last of his five major works for chamber ensemble.
Catoire (1861-1926) is generally considered the father of Russian modernism. He was born in Moscow to a French noble family which had emigrated to Russia in the early 19th century. Although fascinated by music, he studied mathematics and science at the University of Moscow, graduating in 1884. After graduation, however, he decided to devote himself to music. His early compositions showed the influence of Tchaikovsky who described Catoire as talented but in need of serious training. Eventually Catoire was to study composition with Rimsky-Korsakov, Lyadov, Arensky and Taneyev. In 1916, he was appointed Professor of Composition at the Moscow Conservatory, a position he held for the rest of his life. Catoire wrote several treatises on music theory, which became the foundation for the teaching of music theory in Russia. His composition style was a synthesis Russian, German and French influences--Tchaikovsky, Chopin, Cesar Franck, Debussy and Richard Wagner were the chief influences. From them, Catoire developed a highly personal and original idiom. His championing of Wagner is partially responsible for the fact that his works are relatively unknown today. Rimsky-Korsakov's circle disliked Wagner's music intensely and did little to promote it. This resulted in its being barely known in Russia. They also shunned Catoire’s music because he was a Wagnerite.
The Piano Quartet, like his other chamber works, is quite individualistic and original sounding. The opening movement, Allegro moderato, begins softly with an attractive melody veiled in the aura of mysticism. The music quickly becomes rather dramatic and creates a sustained sense of tension. The mood of the second movement, Andante, is subdued and dreamy. The finale, Allegro molto, conjures up a modern vision of elves, sorcerers and fairies.
This wonderful work belongs on concert programs and will also be enjoyed by experienced amateur players. It has been unavailable for more than half a century. We are pleased to reintroduce it.