Divertimento (Piano Sextet) Op.51
For Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Horn, Bassoon & Piano
Paul Juon (1872-1940) was the son of Swiss parents who emigrated to Moscow where he was born. Educated at the Moscow German High School, he entered the Moscow Conservatory where he studied violin with Jan Hrimaly and composition with Anton Arensky and Sergei Taneyev. After graduating, he went to Berlin for further composition instruction from Woldemar Bargiel . In 1906, after holding various posts in Russia, Juon was invited by Joseph Joachim, head of the prestigious Berlin Hochschule für Musik, to become a of Professor of Composition, a post which he held until 1934 when he returned to Switzerland, where lived for the rest of his life.
Juon was widely regarded as a first rate composer and his works were given frequent performance throughout Europe during his lifetime. Chamber music plays a large part of his output which numbers more than 100 works.
The Divertimento dates from 1913. As the title implies, this is music of a lighter nature, but witty and full of surprises in its rhythms and tonal colors. The first movement, Allegretto, performs the function of an overture. It is dainty, but with two contrasting themes. The second movement, titled Intermezzo No.1, is in the nature of a chorale. The center of gravity for the work is the third movement, Fantasia, with its magnificent clarinet solo. The mood is elegiac and very free. One is reminded a bit of Rachmaninov. A second Intermezzo follows. It consists of a minuet and a trio and performs the function of a sorbet between the fish and meat dishes, in this case the Fantasia and the Russian-sounding finale, Rondino, which sounds a bit like a mini-piano concerto with orchestral accompaniment.
We are pleased to reintroduce this charming and engaging work which has long been unavailable. While it is certainly a work suited for the concert hall, amateurs should not miss the opportunity to play it as well.