Piano Quartet in c minor, Op.13
Richard Strauss (1864-1949), of course, needs no introduction. His orchestral compositions and operas have made him one of the best known composers of the late 19th and 20th century. While Strauss did not, in later life, devote much time to chamber music, in his earlier years he tried his hands at several different types of chamber works composing a string quartet, two piano trios, a piano quartet and several instrumental sonatas.
During his early years, Strauss took Schumann and Mendelssohn as his models, but in the case of the Piano Quartet, there is also evidence that Brahms was influential. The Piano Quartet, which must count as one of Strauss' most important works from this period, was completed in 1885 and is in four movements. The massive opening Allegro begins in turbulent fashion virtually exploding out of the gate but the second theme is both more lyrical and reflective. It is followed by a light, playful Scherzo, presto, which is from time to time interrupted by powerful rhythmic bursts. The romantic and lyrical trio section presents a stark contrast. A quiet, somewhat reflective Andante serves as the slow movement. It creates an "after the party" mood, soft and gentle although as the movement develops it reaches several very romantic climaxes. The turbulence we experienced in the opening movement returns in the finale, Vivace. But again a sweet, highly romantic and very lyrical second theme changes the mood altogether.
This is another welcome addition to the piano quartet literature, a fully formed and mature work which not only deserves concert performance but also should be of interest to amateur players.