String Quintet in f# minor, Op.28
For 2 Violins, Viola & 2 Cellos
“It is a pity that Hugo Kaun’s fine String Quintet in f sharp minor appears not only on concert programs far too seldom but also on the music stands of amateur chamber music players, as it has no great difficulties. It dates from 1893 and was published as his opus 28. It is extremely well-written and sounds good. The first movement opens with a serious Largo introduction whose theme will be heard in the main section, Allegro appassionato, as well as the coda. The main subject is quite plastic and dramatic. The charming second subject is lighter. The Scherzo which follows is in the form of an unusual grotesque dance. The wonderfully melodic and graceful trio section has a clever use of pizzicato as an accompaniment. A lovely, warm Adagio serves as the third movement. The highly dramatic finale, also an Allegro appassionato, is full of power and energy.”—–The famous chamber music savant Wilhelm Altmann, writing in his Chamber Music Handbook.
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, an octet, two piano trios, a piano quintet and this string quintet.