Piano Quintet No.2 in E flat Major, Op.20
Ludwig Thuille (1861-1907) was born in the then Austrian town of Bozen located in the South Tirol (now in Italy and called Bolzano). His remarkable talent for music was recognized at an early age. After a stint at the Innsbruck School of Music, Thuille studied with Josef Rheinberger at the Bavarian Royal Conservatory in Munich. Thuille befriended Richard Strauss when he was ten and they remained friends for the rest of Thuille's life. Strauss' influence on Thuille's music was certainly as great as that of Rheinberger. The last part of his life, Thuille spent as a music professor and composer, achieving considerable fame for his operas. He was the founder of the so-called New Munich School of composition. Among his many students was Ernest Bloch. Thuille wrote in most genres and often turned to chamber music.
The Piano Quintet was completed in 1901 and is accurately described as post-romantic. It is a massive affair which marks the first of his works from his so-called second period in which he struck out to find new and more modern paths for tonal expression. And it is in the opening Allegro con brio that these tendencies are the most noticeable. The thrusting main theme is ever striving for a seemingly unobtainable climax. The plasticity of the ideas is truly striking. The second movement, Adagio assai sostenuto, begins with a lengthy, somber, almost funereal, introduction in the piano. After this, the strings, at first alone, (our sound-bite begins here) take on the development of this highly potent theme. As the piano joins in drama and tension build. The Allegretto which follows, though lively, is overshadowed by the darkly colored but beautiful tonal language. In the finale, once again, the piano has a lengthy, and this time very powerful, introduction, before the strings announce the triumphant main theme which surges forward with great drive.
This is a magnificent work of the first order. It belongs in the repertoire and on the stands of chamber music lovers everywhere. We