String Quintet for 2 Violins, Viola & 2 Cellos, Op.16
Georgy Catoire (1861-1926) is generally considered the father of Russian modernism. His String Quintet, which tonally was advanced for its time, was composed in 1909.
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 Quintet is a highly individualistic and original work which sounds like little else being written at the time. The opening movement, Allegro moderato, begins in a hesitant fashion but builds in intensity and drama, while weaving a very rich and complex harmonic texture. The second movement, Allegro molto e agitato, presents a restless and searching mood in the main theme. Here Catoire gives an excellent illustration of his careful compositional technique as he takes his time in raising the temperature which eventually catches fire. A slow movement, Andante non troppo, follows. With its mysterious and gossamer character, it is perhaps the most unusual of movements, as it takes the listener into a quiet, haunted world of shadows. The exciting finale, as its title indicates, Allegro impetuoso, has an impatience to it which almost rises to the level of violence. From the opening notes, the music dramatically explodes. However, Catoire juxtaposes it with a lovely lyrical second theme.
Here is a very profound and major work which every two cello string quintet will certainly enjoy playing and which would triumph in concert. Here is another work which has been out of print for nearly a century. We are proud to reintroduce it.