Piano Quartet No.3 in a minor, Op.133
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.
The Piano Quartet in A Major, Op.133 is his third and final work for this combination. It was completed in 1868 and was written on a large scale. The massive opening movement, Allegro appassionato, begins rather abruptly, almost as if in mid phrase, with an unsettling, ascending chromatic passage. The treatment of the restless and brooding main theme is extremely plastic, which allows the thrusting rhythm to dominate until finally the strings, in unison, state the theme in a much more emphatic fashion. A lovely Adagio comes next. It opens with the cello alone bring forth the very lyrical, somewhat sad first subject in its entirety before the rest of the strings join in. A Mendelssohnian episode, with the strings playing pizzicato, follows and provides a fine contrast. Hiller subtitles the third movement, marked Allegretto grazioso, an intermezzo. It is a quite interesting blend--- it begins with the piano given the lead and sounds like a sad Mendelssohnian Song Without Words, but when the strings join in, the music is transformed into just the kind of intermezzo for which Mendelssohn was famous. In the finale, Allegro con fuoco, the music once again begins rather abruptly, this time it is a short boisterous, martial introduction. Although the music is fiery, it is also characterized by the good spirits.
Unavailable for more than a century, we reprinted the original Kistner edition but have added rehearsal letters and corrected a few mistakes.