Robert Kahn

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Quintet in c minor, Op.54

For either Violin, Clarinet, Horn, Cello & Piano or 2 Violins, Viola, Cello & Piano

Kahn's Op.54 Quintet in c minor for Violin, Clarinet, Horn, Cello and Piano dates from 1911. It is one of the most original sounding chamber music works because this rare ensemble creates an unusual tone color seldom heard. In its original version for piano, winds and strings, the nature of the instruments, by themselves alone, creates the stunning and rich effects. Because of the prospect of small sales due to this little used combination, Kahn's publisher demanded a version for standard piano quintet. Kahn obliged. And the version for standard piano quintet is surprisingly fine because he created string parts which were different and better suited to this combination while striving hard to maintain the wonderful tone color of the original. The famous chamber music critic Wilhelm Altmann, writing in Cobbett's Cyclopedia of Chamber Music, singled out this work for its fine writing, its warmth and nobility. The part-writing is superb and the overall effect of the work is stunning.


Robert Kahn (1865-1951) was born in Mannheim of a well-to-do banking family. He began his studies at the Hochschule für Musik in Berlin. There, he got to know and became friends with Joseph Joachim who was the director. It was through both Joachim and his own family that he had a chance to get to know Brahms, who was so impressed with Kahn that he offered to give him composition lessons. However, Kahn was too overawed to accept. Nevertheless, Brahms did help Kahn informally, and while Kahn's work does, to some extent, show the influence of Brahms, he is an eclectic and independent composer whose music has its own originality. After finishing his studies in Berlin, Kahn, on Brahms' suggestion, went to Munich to study with Joseph Rheinberger. After completing his own studies, he worked for a while as a free lance composer before obtaining a position at the Hochschule in Berlin where he eventually became a professor of piano and composition.


The opening movement, Allegro non troppo,, opens with a short, quiet, mystical sounding introduction and then suddenly explodes into a dramatic and powerful affair with an almost desperate sounding melody which is masterfully developed.  The highly original sounding second movement Presto assai, is hard to characterize. It is not actually a scherzo. Its sycopated rhythm is quite unusual and striking. It creates a nervous effect, almost tripping over itself. Next comes a beautiful, dreamy Andante sostenuto which calls up calm, lazy days. The finale, Allegro agitato, with its spooky dance-like main theme recalls the second movement as it lopes along with much forward motion.


What a tremendous pity that a work so fine as this is virtually unknown. Long out of print, it is with pleasure that we reintroduce it. And we also offer two other fine works for this exact same combination for Violin, Clarinet, Horn, Cello and Piano: The Quintet in D Major by Zdenek Fibich and the Quintet in E flat by Thomas Dunhill both of which we heartily recommend as a fine companion work.

(A) Violin, Clarinet, Horn, Cello & Piano $39.95
(B) Two Violins, Viola, Cello & Piano $39.95
(C) All Seven Parts $47.95



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