Piano Quintet No.2 in b minor, Op.63
Friedrich Gernsheim (1839-1916) is a composer whose music was held in the highest regard by critics during his lifetime. No less an authority than Wilhelm Altmann, perhaps the most influential chamber music critic of all time, has written that Gernsheimís chamber music is poetic and of a high intellectual content. Gernsheim, somewhat of a piano and violin virtuoso as a child, was eventually educated at the famous Leipzig Conservatory where he studied piano with Ignaz Moscheles and violin with Ferdinand David. After graduating, he continued his studies in Paris, getting to know Saint SaŽns, Lalo, Liszt and Rossini. Despite his admiration for France and the French, he returned to Germany and during the course of his life, he held academic and conducting positions in Cologne, Rotterdam and finally Berlin. He used his position as a conductor to advance the cause of Brahmsí music. The two, while not close friends, carried on a correspondence for many years during which it was clear that Brahms had considerable respect and admiration for Gernsheimís work. An accolade which was, in Brahmsí case, no mere flattery as Brahms only very rarely praised the works of other composers.
The Second Piano Quintet was completed in 1890, some 15 years after the First. During this time, he musical language continuted to develop and was certainly in advance of such contemporaries as Bruch and even Brahms but not as radical as the younger generation of Richard Strauss and Max Reger. It is a big work. The opening movement, Molto moderato, begins softly though it quickly builds in dynamics and tension. The brooding main theme is heavily accented and spacious in conception. The tempo is relaxed, there is no rush. A second theme is rather waltz like. The the lyrical and highly romantic main theme of the second movement, Adagio, is brought forth slowly by the first violin agains a highly chromatic accompaniment. The music is subdued until interrupted by a stormy appassionato interlude. While the first two movements were written on a large scale, the third movement, a deft scherzo, Allegretto molto grazioso e sempre scherzando, is rather brief, but withing its short span several storm bursts are unleashed in this whirlwind affair. The finale, Allegro giocoso, ma non troppo presto, opens with an orchestral-like fanfare. The music is upbeat and quite lively.
This is, in our opinion, an absolutely first rate work, certainly deserving concert performance but is in no way beyond experienced amateur players. Only printed once, and unavailable for the past 100 years, we have reprinted this fine work and have added rehearsal letters which the original was missing.