Phantasy for Piano Quintet
James Friskin (1886-1967) was born in Glasgow, and at a young age showed considerable music ability which gained him a scholarship to the Royal College of Music in London, where he studied piano with Edward Dannreuther and composition with Charles Stanford. In 1914 Friskin went to work in the States as a teacher, and was subsequently appointed to the staff of the Juilliard School in New York where he remained for many years.
Friskinís Phantasy for Piano Quintet dates from 1910 and was composed for the prestigious Cobbett Competition. The Cobbett Competitions were designed to encourage the younger generation of British composers to write chamber music. Its founder and benefactor was the chamber music aficionado William Wilson Cobbett. The rules of the competition provided an alternate format, the old English Fancy for Fantasia from the time of Purcell, to the traditional four movement work which had developed from Haydn onwards. There was to be only a single movement of around 15 minutes duration embracing a variety of moods, tone colors and tempi while at the same time retaining an inner unity. (There was a rumor that because Cobbett was said to play string quartets during his lunch hour and required works of short duration, he came up with this idea)
The work opens with a slow, plaintive introduction and leads to the first section, an Allegro appassionato which eventually speeds up to become a Presto. As the key changes, so does the tempo to an expressive Adagio which ends with a fugal interlude. The final section, Allegro con fuoco is briefly interrupted by a tranquil interlude before leading to the tonally striking coda.
Out of print for the better part of a century and we are pleased to reintroduce this fine work. It would make an attractive medium length work for a concert program. Amateurs will also enjoy playing it.