Piano Quartet in d minor, Op.50
Heinrich Hofmann (1842-1902) was born in Berlin and studied there at the Neue Akademie der Tonkunst with the Theodor Kullak and Siegfried Dehn. At first, he embarked upon a career as a pianist and teacher. However, by the late 1860's, his operas and his choral and orchestral works began to achieve great success and for the next two decades, he was one of the most often performed composers in Germany and much of Europe. Success came at a price. Although hailed by some critics, such as Hermann Mendel, as a of real talent and one of the most important emerging composers of his time, many others, jealous of his rocketing success or determined to protect their favorites (such as Eduard Hanslick was of Brahms), derided him for his "fashionable eclecticism". While his works broke no new ground, on the other hand, they were masterfully conceived, beautiful and well-executed. This is especially true of his chamber music. Besides this Piano Quartet, he composed a Piano Trio, a String Sextet, an Octet and several smaller works.
The Op.50 Piano Quartet dates from 1880, composed at a time when Hofmann was at the height of his powers and success. The quartet begins with a massive, Vivace ma non troppo. The brooding opening theme immediately captures the listener's attention. It is both attractive and full of drama. The writing, that is the integration of the strings with the piano, is truly first rate. All of the instruments are handled marvelously. After a masterly development, the second theme brings with it a lovely lyricism. The highly romantic second movement, Andante poco sostenuto, begins with a gorgeous violin solo soon followed by the cello and the other voices. After reaching a powerful climax, another sweet and romantic melody is brought forth by the cello. A robust and hard-driving scherzo, Vivace, full of forward motion comes next. A slower and gentle trio section completes the picture. The finale, an Animato in D Major, bursts out of the gate from its opening notes full of energy. The music is triumphant and jovial. A spacious and more relaxed second subject provides fine contrast.
This Piano Quartet is a superb work and for many years enjoyed great popularity. It is not hard to see why once you have heard the music. As there are so few piano quartets performing before the public today, it is no mystery why it disappeared. All but a few works from this genre are known to the public today. Certainly, here is one that is as good as any and which belongs in the front ranks. We recommend it without reservation to both professionals and amateurs alike. Long out of print, we are very pleased to make it available once again.