Piano Quartet No.2 in G Major, Op.50
Paul Juon's Second Piano Quartet dates from 1912. It was dedicated to his first wife who had recently died, and is, by comparison to his First Piano Quartet the Op.37 Rhapsodie, a more personal work. It was clearly meant to be autobiographical. The opening movement, Moderato, is tender and dreamy, a statement of his initial infatuation. The second movement, Scherzo, bears the subtitle "Trembling Hearts" and expertly encapsulates that feeling which expectant lovers experience. The following Adagio lamentoso begins in a melancholy mood and slowly rises to the fever pitch of a lament. The riveting finale, Allegro non troppo, with its chromaticism recalls the mysticism of his Russian homeland. A highly romantic dance of doom, dark and forboding comes next. Then a second theme, more tender, but by no means happy, makes an appearance. It, in turn, is followed by an inexorable march of destiny and an incredible, hair-raising ride.
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 be a Professor of Composition. It was a post he held until 1934 at which time he moved to Switzerland, where lived for the rest of his life. During his lifetime, Juon was widely regarded as an important composer and his works were given frequent performance throughout Europe. Chamber music plays a large part of his total output which numbers more than 100 works.
The Second Piano Quartet is an excellent example of why Juon has often been referred to as the missing link between Tchaikovsky and Stravinsky. In his early music, one can hear the influence of his Russian homeland and schooling. Of course, Juon recognized that though he had been born in Russia and schooled there, he was a still foreigner living among Russians. His second period is more cosmopolitan and is in tune with the contemporary Central European trends of the early 20th century. Ultimately, it is hard to characterize his music as Russian or German, Romantic, Modern or Folkloric, because one can find all of these elements in his music.
We are pleased to reintroduce this long unavailable noteworthy piano quartet, characteristic of the transitional period of the second decade of the 20th century. It deserves concert performance but will also intrigue amateurs.