Piano Quartet in a minor, Op.7
Vincent d’Indy (1851-1931) was born of aristocratic stock. His musical talent was recognized by his grandmother who raised him and saw that he received piano lessons from famous teachers. Despite this, he was sent to law school in Paris. Instead, D’Indy, who was intent on becoming a composer, joined a Parisian orchestra as a timpanist to learn music “from the ground up.” Both Massenet and Bizet were impressed by his early compositions and encouraged him to show his work to César Franck. Franck did not share their enthusiasm and was reputed to have told D’Indy, “You have ideas but you cannot do anything.” Apparently those ideas were enough, however, to convince Franck to show D’Indy how to do things, as he took the latter on as a pupil. Though D’Indy was to assimilate and be influenced by many different sources, Franck and his music left the most telling mark on him. D’Indy’s reputation, during his own lifetime was considerable, having founded, in 1900, what was to become the most important music school in France after the Paris Conservatory—The Schola Cantorum.
Vincent d'Indy composed his piano quartet in 1878 shortly after completing his studies with Cesar Franck. The work shows the influence of Franck, who along with Liszt and Wagner, were to remain his models throughout his life. The opening movement, Allegro non troppo, begins with a dark melody presented first by the cello over a quiet, but rushing accompaniment in the piano. After a full statement of the theme, d'Indy introduces some very original chromatics in very fast downward passages and also repeats modulation chords which creates a feeling of uncertainty. The second movement, Andante moderato, subtitled Ballade, opens with a mellow theme given out by the viola. One can well imagine a ballad singer. The second theme, which consists of the various strings echoing each other, is quite romantic. The very French finale, Allegro vivo, begins in jovial fashion with the rhythm playing as important a role as the melody.
Here is a very fine work which should interest those looking for a French piano quartet from the mid romantic period. After many years of being unavailable, we are pleased to reintroduce it to amateurs and professionals.