Piano Quartet in E flat Major, Op.3
Iwan Knorr (1853-1916) was born in the village of Mewe near the town of Marienwerder in what was then West Prussia. His first lessons were on piano from his mother. He attended the Leipzig Conservatory where he studied with Ignaz Moscheles, Carl Reinecke and Ernst Richter. After graduating he obtained a teaching position at the Russian Imperial Conservatory in Kharkov, in what is now Ukraine. Brahms thought highly of Knorr’s compositions and recommended him for a position at Frankfurt’s prestigious Hoch Conservatory; then under the directorship of Clara Schumann. Eventually, Knorr became its director. He was an important teacher, among his many students were Ernest Bloch, Hans Pfitzner, Ernst Toch, Hermann Zilcher, Walter Braunfels, Bernhard Sekles and Roger Quilter.
The Piano Quartet, in four movements, was published in 1887 but was composed a decade earlier. It shows the influence of his friend Brahms who is said to have performed it as did Clara Schumann with Joachim. The opening movement, Allegro moderato, begins in leisurely fashion with a broad and stately theme. The tonalities are rich and full-blooded and one can hear why Brahms was impressed. The second movement is a lively Scherzo. Its continuously accented third beat creates considerable interest. Its use of trills and springing intervals recalls Brahms Horn Trio. Next comes a calm and peaceful Andante, however its middle section is quite passionate. The high spirited finale, Allegro, also brings Brahms at his best to mind. The sparkling music races along to a satisfying conclusion.
Out of print for more than a century, this work deserves to be heard in the concert hall and should also be of interest to amateurs as it presents no technical difficulties.