Piano Quartet No.1 in A Major, Op.9 "Im Sommer"
Louise Heritte-Viardot (1841-1918) was born in Paris into a musical family. Both her mother Pauline Viardot (née Garcia) and her aunt Maria Malibran were world famous vocalists. She, too, became a singer, having been taught by her mother. However her health prevented her from prevented her from having the same type of career that her mother had. While she continued to sing on occasion, she mostly devoted herself to composing and teaching. Whereas her mother and aunt also composed, but only French art songs with piano accompaniment, Louise wrote in virtually every genre. Among her works are some four string quartets, three piano quartets, two piano trios and several instrumental sonatas.
Unfortunately, much of her oeuvre is now lost. Of her chamber music, only the three piano quartets have survived. The Piano Quartet No.1 in A Major dates from 1883. It is clearly programmatic music as Heritte-Viardot not only titled the work Im Sommer (In Summer) but gave each of the movements a subtitle. The first movement, Allegro un poco animato, is subtitled Des Morgens im Walde (Mornings in the Forest) evokes the awakening dawn of the forest and is both lyrical but also incorporates a hunting motif. The second movement, a scherzo, is subtitled Fliegen und Schmetterlinge (Flies and Butterflies). The music alternates between quick presto sections and slower moderatos. The third movement, Die Schwüle (Sultry Weather) is a lento. Slow and ponderous but at the same time lyrical, it is meant to convey the stifling heat of a hot summer’s day. The finale, Vivo allegretto, is subtitled Abends unter die Eiche (Evenings under the Oak). The composer further notes that it is a Bauerntanz, that is. a peasant dance and the music aptly conveys the rustic yet graceful quality of such a dance.
This is a great choice for a concert program which audiences are sure to enjoy. And amateurs as well should not miss the chance to play it. The part-writing is very fine and highly effective and the ideas are perfectly suited for its purpose.