Piano Quintet in g minor, Op.8
Suk's Piano Quintet was composed in 1893 and was intended to allow the famous Bohemian Quartet, of which he was a member, to expand their repertoire to include Czech works with piano. Though the Quintet was widely praised, Suk himself was not entirely satisfied with it and revised it in 1915. It is a big work, certainly deserving to be in the standard repertoire for this ensemble.
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 opening movement, Allegro energico, bursts forth in energetic fashion with vigorous motion in all of the voices, as the viola and cello soar high above. Although there are moments of repose, the movement is mostly highly charged and full of forward motion. The second movement, Adagio religioso, begins with a heavenly, ethereal, ave-maria-like chorale in the strings over the soft arpeggios in the piano, but then builds to a powerful dramatic climax. The third movement is a wonderfully fleet, Scherzo, based on a pentatonic theme, characteristic of Bohemian melody. The Bohemian dance rhythm of main theme of the finale, Allegro con fuoco, is as important as the actual melody. The movement is by turns fiery and lyrical.
Here is a superb work for piano quintet, It will triumph in the concert hall and should not be missed by amateurs. Out of print or hard to obtain, we are pleased to make it available.