Piano Quintet in f sharp minor, Op.30
Carl Frühling (1868-1937) was born in what was then known as Lemberg, the capital city of the province of Galicia, a part of the Austrian Habsburg empire. (Today it is in Ukraine and known as Lviv). He studied piano and composition at the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Vienna and was awarded the Liszt Prize upon graduating in 1889. For many years he enjoyed a career as an accompanist to some of the most important instrumental soloists and vocalists then performing, including such stars as Pablo Sarasate, Bronislav Huberman and Leo Slezak. He often served as pianist to the Rosé Quartet, then Vienna's premiere string quartet. In the wake of the First World War and its catastrophic effect on Austria and Vienna, his career was virtually destroyed and, sadly, he and his music were soon forgotten. He composed in most genres and left several first rate chamber music compositions besides this wonderful piano quintet.
The Piano Quintet dates from 1894 and, up until the start of World War I, enjoyed considerable popularity in Austria and Germany. The title to the first movement, Allegro agitato ed molto appassionato, well describes the music. From the opening notes, the rich melody, powerful and brooding but full of promise, seizes the listener's attention. The dramatic music rushes forward, ever racing toward its destiny. Finally, the appearance of the more relaxed second theme allows for the relief of tension. The second movement, Andante cantabile, begins with a gorgeous cello solo. Soon the others join in to further develop this lovely and highly romantic melody. A playful and somewhat naughty Scherzo comes next. It is full of tricks and surprises. The darker and slower trio section provides a fine contrast. The last movement, though simply marked Finale, is clearly meant to be played at a brisk pace. The march-like main theme bursts forth with tremendous forward energy. Then, without warning, Frühling introduces an exciting fugue which is used as a lengthy introductory bridge passage to the buoyant but lyrical second theme.
Certainly the words, "unjustly forgotten masterwork" apply this superb piano quintet. Professionals introducing it in concert are sure to enjoy a great triumph and amateurs will revel in a great romantic work well within their reach. We thank Steven Isserlis for providing us with a photograph. Out of print for the better part of a century, we are pleased to make it available once again.