Piano Quartet in a minor, Op.1
Suk's Piano Quartet was was the result of an assignment from his teacher, Anton Dvorak. Dvorak was so taken with the finished product that he selected it for the graduation awards concert. Suk promptly numbered it his Op.1, though he had written many other works, signaling that he was now a mature composer. The work was published immediately and was for many years a staple of the repertoire.
Josef Suk (1874-1935) was born in Krecovice in southern Bohemia, then part of Austria. He studied piano, violin and organ with his father who served as village choirmaster. His exceptional talent led to his being enrolled at the Prague Conservatory in 1885 at the age of 11 where he first studied violin. Eventually, he became a composition student of Antonin Dvorak. He graduated in 1891, and kept up a friendship with Dvorak, whose daughter he married in 1898. He formed what became the world famous Bohemian Quartet with three of his fellow students . Suk played second violin with the Quartet for most of his life. From 1922, he taught at the Prague Conservatory. Among his many students were the composer Bohuslav Martinu and the pianist Rudolf Firkusny. Suk served as the Conservatory's director after 1924, on and off, until the end of his life.
The Op. 1 dates from 1891. The opening movement, Allegro appassionato, from the powerful opening chord soars forward with its energetic and at times highly dramatic theme. When the dust finally settles and things calm down, a very lovely, lyrical second theme is brought forth. The middle movement, Adagio, begins quietly with a wonderful, valedictory, melody which bears a slight resemblance to the lovely theme from Borodin Second String Quartet. The finale, Allegro con fuoco, as the first movement, is exciting from the very first measure. A march-like theme starts off the proceedings. Echoes of Dvorak can be briefly be heard in passing. Again for a second theme, Suk chooses a wonderful, lyrical melody, quite romantic and beautiful.
The fact that this fine work as disappeared from the standard repertoire can only be due to the fact that it has been out of print for more than half a century. Please note we have reprinted the original and only edition in which, unfortunately, the piano part, though it contains the string parts, is smaller than usual. The original had no rehearsal letters. We have remedied this problem and added them. Professionals and amateurs will do well to make themselves acquainted with it.