Piano Quintet in G Major, Op.156
Ferdinand Hiller (1811-1885) first studied piano and violin in his native Frankfurt. His talent was such that he was taken to study with Johann Nepomuk Hummel, then the greatest living pianist. Hiller eventually became one of the leading pianists of his time and for a while devoted himself to a concert career before deciding to concentrate on composing and conducting. For more than 2 decades he was one of Mendelssohnís closest friends, succeeding him as conductor of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra. He served as a Professor and Director of the Cologne Conservatory for several decades. Among his many students was Max Bruch. A prolific composer who wrote works in virtually every genre, Hillerís vast musical output today is more or less forgotten despite the fact that there are many fine works which certainly deserve to be revived.
Hiller's Piano Quintet in G Major was completed in 1873. It is a massive work which upon its premiere was acclaimed one of the very best of its kind. It entered the repertoire and was played for many years before it disappeared like so many other fine works from the Romantic era in the wake of the First World War.
The outer movements in particular are written on a grand scale. The opening, Allegro con anima, opens in a relaxed genial fashion with a pleasant theme, but soon the mood changes and the tempo picks up as we hear the call of destiny and an aura of unrest. The second movement Adagio espressivo, begins quietly with a short piano introduction. The lovely lyrical main theme is reflective and calm, but almost at once tension is built and an incredible sense of yearning is brought to the fore. The interplay of the piano and the strings is particularly fine. The third movement, marked Allegretto leggiero, Hiller titles Intermezzo. The piano brings forth a wayward melody over the pizzicati of the strings. But the syncopated rhythm of the second theme creates considerable forward motion and provides a fine contrast. The bustling and breathtaking finale, Allegro con molto fuoco, starts with a series of racing upward and plunging scale passages before the appearance of the first theme which is quickly truncated by the reappearance of the scale passages which continue to dominate affairs though they are continually interrupted by short, telling lyrical episodes.
Unavailable for the better part of a century, we are pleased to make this quintet available once again and feel it should be of interest to both professionals and experience amateur players.