Piano Quartet in d minor, Op.8
Zygmunt Noskowski (1846-1909) was born in Warsaw and was originally trained at the Warsaw Conservatory studying violin and composition. A scholarship enabled him to travel to Berlin where between 1864 and 1867, he studied with Friedrich Kiel, one of Europe’s leading teachers of composition. After holding several positions abroad, Noskowski returned to Warsaw in 1880 where he remained for the rest of his life.
He worked not only as a composer, but also became a famous teacher, a prominent conductor and a journalist. He was one of the most important figures in Polish music during the late 19th century and the first decade of the 20th. He taught virtually of all the important Polish composers of the next generation, and is considered today to be the first Polish symphonic composer. He served as head of the Warsaw Music Society from 1880 to 1902 and was considered Poland’s leading composer during the last decade of his life.
Noskowski’s piano quartet dates from 1879 and clearly shows that he had assimilated all of the recent developments of Central European music. Beyond clearly sounding that it was written during the romantic period by a Central European composer, the Piano Quartet owes nothing, by way of influence, to any of the major composers , such as Brahms or Liszt, who were then dominating the scene. As such, it brings a special freshness despite the familiar tonal territory it covers.
The opening Allegro con brio begins with a powerful, full-blooded theme that conveys a mood of struggle. The second movement, Molto andante cantabile, has for its main theme an extraordinarily beautiful song-like melody. The very striking third movement, Moderato assai energico, begins with a straight forward, thrusting main theme and then gives way to a sparkling and quicker middle section of great originality and freshness. The finale, Adagio quasi recitativo--Allegro, as the movement's marking indicates, begins with a lengthy, dramatic and moody recitative section played by the violin and piano. But the main part of the movement, Allegro, features a joyous and rambunctious first subject followed by a lyrical and yearning. (Our sound-bites begins with the last few seconds of the recitative)
This work is of the first rank and unquestionably belongs in the concert-hall repertoire and yet, it is in no way beyond the ability of competent amateurs whom we feel will derive immense enjoyment from it.