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String Sextet in c minor, Op.5
Max Lewandowsky (1874-1906) was born in the German city of Hamburg. Despite the fact that he was, though not famous, a fairly well-known performing musician, conductor and composer within Germany and England during the last five years of his life, very little information about him is available. He is thought to have studied piano with Arnold Krug and possibly Hans von Bülow in Hamburg and most likely studied composition as well with Krug and perhaps with Josef Foerster and Gustav Mahler. Other sources suggest he may have studied composition with Heinrich von Herzogenberg at the Hochschule für Musik in Berlin. What is known is that he performed as a pianist and served as a conductor in both Berlin and London. It is also known that several of his works from chamber music, to symphonies to vocal works were performed both in Germany and elsewhere in Europe. Although he seems to have been most active in Berlin, he died in his home town of Hamburg in a boating accident.
His String Sextet in c minor, Op.5 dates from 1904. The opening movement, Allegro assai, literally begins with a bang. The main theme which is immediately introducted is dramatic and riveting, full of forward thrust. A genial second theme is more lyrical and relaxed. The lovely second movement, Andante sostenuto, is a cross between a romantic serenade and an intermezzo. Next comes a nervous Scherzo, allegro molto vivace, in the tradition of Mendelssohn. It is coupled with a slower, lyrical and quite appealing trio section. The finale, Allegro moderato ma energico, begins with a lugubrious but very powerful march-like theme, which quickly picks up speed and forward motion. A languid second subject provides excellent contrast.
This is a first rate work, an excellent addition to the string sextet literature. It is sure to make a strong impression in the concert hall and should not be missed by amateurs as it presents no technical problems.