Allegro Brillante for Piano Quartet in E flat Major
Wilhelm Stenhammar (1871-1927) was born in Stockholm and studied locally. He took piano lessons from by Richard Andersson, a student of Clara Schumann, and composition from Emil Sjogren, eventually becoming a virtuoso who was considered the finest Swedish pianist of his time. But Stenhammar was more interested in chamber music and aligned himself with the Aulin String Quartet with whom he regularly performed piano quintets in concert. This relationship gave him a deeper appreciation and understanding of string instruments and was no doubt responsible for the very fine works he was able to write for them.
The Allegro brillante, composed in 1891, was most likely intended as a performance vehicle for Stenhammar and a group of string players. It was designed as a one movement concert piece and not as the first movement to some larger work. Although it is an early work, already Stenhammar's mastery and sureness of touch are apparent. From the opening notes, we hear a rich romantic theme, shared equally by all. The piano is perfectly integrated into the strings and one does not feel it is at all alien. The second theme is every bit as lush as the first. Clearly, Stenhammar lavished considerable care on this work.
The Allegro Brillante has never been commercially available. This is its world premiere, based on the composer's manuscript in Stockholm. It is the perfect piece for any piano quartet seeking to program a shorter work between two longer ones. Amateurs will also enjoy adding this to their collections.