Violins: Ivan Subbotkin, Anna Chebukova
Viola: Pavel Bezinsky
Cellos: Anna Balan, Dmitri Ustimenko
Erich Korngold. Piano Quintet in E major, Op. 15
Dmitri Shostakovich. Piano Quintet in G minor, Op. 57
Perhaps no other genre of chamber music-making can give a composer such a wide range of technical capabilities and expressive means as the piano quintet. This genre combines the subtlety and elegance of writing as an intrinsic quality of chamber music; large-scale symphonic concepts, and the virtuosity inherent in the concerto genre. Certain piano quintets (for instance, by Brahms, Franck, Taneyev, Shostakovich) can be called “ensemble symphonies”.
The “Two Times Five” concert features two piano quintets composed in the first half of the 20th century.
The next year will see the 120th anniversary of the birth of the Austrian composer Erich Korngold (1897 – 1957). Today his music is known to only a small group of professional musicians. However, Korngold was a child prodigy: at the age of 11 he composed his ballet The Snowman, which scored a tremendous success when performed at the Vienna Court Opera. In his lifetime Korngold was tipped to become another Wagner or Mahler, but in fact it was not all that simple. Unlike many composers of his generation (Arnold Schönberg and other members of the Second Viennese School), Korngold stayed on the sidelines of musical innovations. Till his dying day he was committed to traditional musical forms and the late Romantic compositional style. Korngold reached the zenith of his fame right after World War I. It was during that period that he composed the Piano Quintet in E major, Op. 15 (1921), which is markedly influenced by the major German Romantic compositional styles of the second half of the 19th century – those of Wagner and Brahms.
The premiere of the Piano Quintet in G minor, Op. 57 (1940) by Dmitri Shostakovich (1906 –1975) which took place in the Small Hall of the Moscow Conservatory on 23 November 1940 was one of the composer’s greatest triumphs; the composition was performed by the author and the Beethoven String Quartet. Afterwards Shostakovich and the Beethoven Quartet performed the Quintet seventy times. Also, Shostakovich played the piece with the Glazunov, Borodin and Komitas Quartets.
According to the composer’s biographer Krzysztof Meyer, it was “one of the few cases when his new work was almost unanimously recognized by critics and colleagues.” There is a widely-known excerpt of a letter by the writer Alexey Tolstoy: “Tell those interested that Shostakovich’s Quintet is an ordinary work of genius, every bit as good as his Symphony No.5.”