Piano Quintet in f sharp minor, Op.39
Hugo Kaun (1863-1932) was born in Berlin and received his musical education there, studying composition with Friedrich Kiel at the Royal Prussian Academy of Music. In 1887, he moved to the United States and settled in the city of Milwaukee where he lived for 13 years. Milwaukee had a large German-American population and Kaun taught at the Milwaukee Conservatory. He acquired quite a reputation as a composer as several of his works were premiered by the Chicago Symphony under the direction of his friend Theodore Thomas who had founded the orchestra. He returned to Berlin in 1900, where he remained for the rest of his life, teaching and composing. His style is late romantic and shows the influences of Brahms, Bruckner and Wagner.
He wrote a fair amount of chamber music, including 4 string quartets, a string quintet, an octet, two piano trios and this piano quintet, which was first published as a string quintet in 1893 while he was living in Milwaukee. In 1902, after he returned to Berlin, Kaun reworked it to create a piano quintet and dedicated to a friend of his friend Jakob Heyl, in Milwaukee. The Quintet is in four movements and opens with a rich but darkly hued Ruhig mit Empfindung. In the second movement, Intermezzo, Kaun tells the performers to play the music quickly and secretively. The result is a spooky effect somewhat like what hears in Dukasí Sorcererís Apprentice. The third movement, marked Einfach mit Innigster Empfindung, is quiet and reflective but not sad. Toward the end it reaches a powerful dramatic climax before quietly drifting to a close. The finale, Markig, leidenschaftlich bewegt, begins in tumultuous fashion. There is a great sense of depth, brief touches of French impressionism, but also whirling storm-like passages, heard especially in long chromatic runs in the piano.
This is a very fine work which should not have disappeared. An excellent program choice for professional ensembles as well as amateurs will relish the opportunity to play a work well within their grasp. Long out of print, we are very pleased to make it available once again.