Heinrich von Herzogenberg
Piano Quartet No.1 in e minor, Op.75
Herzogenberg's First Piano Quartet dates from 1891-2 and was composed both during his beloved wife's last illness and also after her death. While it is not a tragic work, it is full of many different emotions and exudes a spiritual quality.
The Austrian composer Heinrich von Herzogenberg (1843-1900) has sometimes been attacked as nothing more than a pale imitation of Brahms, of whom he was a great admirer. There is no denying that his music often shows the influence of Brahms, however, listeners and players alike have discovered that it is original and fresh, notwithstanding the influence of Brahms. Most of his chamber is first rate and Brahms might well have wished he had written some of it. Toward the of his life, Brahms, who was not in the habit of praising other composers publicly, wrote of Herzogenberg, whom he had often harshly criticized in the past, “Herzogenberg is able to do more than any of the others."
"A composer of great refinement. He in his way was an original thinker and a musician of genuine emotional and poetic qualities. His chamber compositions in particular stand out among his hundred or more published works, for they are not only masterly from the technical point of view, but interesting on the intellectual side. "
So wrote, Wilhelm Altmann, one of the most respected chamber music critics of the 20th century.
The first movement, Allegro, opens in a dramatic, serious mood as storm clouds threaten. There is an undeniably Brahmsian aura to it. Although the second theme, based on a folk melody, is more lyrical, still, the quiet air of desperation hovers over the music. Altmann described the following Andante quasi allegretto as a song without words. It is calm and reflective but when the cello enters it becomes a solemn declaration of love. Although the Vivace, is lively, it is a grotesque and macabre liveliness. Only in the trio, a Bach-like fugue, does the mood lighten. The finale, Moderato, consists of several episodes each of a different mood, representing a kind of biographical summing up of their life together. It begins with a dignified, church-like anthem of resignation, but also of thanksgiving. This gives way to a romantic and turbulent section which is followed by a measured dance of joy. Herzogenberg himself wrote of the finale that it was a declaration of love to my dead Lisl. Toward the end, main theme from the second movement briefly reappears, perhaps to indicate that there is, after all, heavenly peace.
There has only been one edition, which appeared without rehearsal letters. Although another publisher reprinted it several years ago, for a rather high price, he neither added rehearsal letters nor corrected any errors. We have reprinted the first edition, adding rehearsal letters and correcting mistakes. Here is a work which truly belongs in the repertoire. Piano Quartet groups, be they professional or amateur, will certainly enjoy this great playing it.