Friedrich Kiel: 3 Piano Quartets

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Friedrich Kiel - Piano Quartet No. 1 in A Minor Op. 43 (1867)

Piano Quartet No. 1 by Friedrich Kiel. Performed by Ulrike-Anima Mathe, Hariolf Schlichtig, Xenia Jankovic and Oliver Triendl.

I. Allegro Moderato Con Spirito - 00:00
II. Adagio Con Moto - 12:18
III. Scherzo - Allegro Con Spirito - 18:03
IV. Finale - Vivace - 25:06

Friedrich Kiel's Piano Quartet No.1 in a minor, Op.43, along with his two others, is among the best and the most important works for this ensemble. It should be remembered that up until the First World War, piano quartets were more frequently composed and performed than the now more often performed piano quintet.

Writing of the chamber music of Friedrich Kiel (1821-1885), Wilhelm Altmann—perhaps the greatest of chamber music critics—notes that it was Kiel's extreme modesty which kept him and his exceptional works from receiving the consideration they deserved. And what consideration did Altmann feel these works deserved? After mentioning Brahms and others, Altmann writes, "He produced a number of chamber works, which...need fear no comparison." Altmann, himself, said that he found in Kiel's chamber music a "never ending source of delight." That his works remained relatively unknown was due mostly to his modesty but also, Altmann explains, to the high cost of the original editions.

Kiel's First Piano Quartet dates from 1867. The magnificent first movement, Allegro moderato ma con spirito, begins with a lengthy, diffident and leisurely introduction, which takes its time building tension and interest before the heroic main theme, sung high in violin, is produced. The other strings join in while the piano plays a jaunty rhythmic accompaniment. An exotic development in the piano is interspersed between this, but then quickly leads to the triumphal march-like second theme. The second movement, Adagio con moto, is in the form of a simple, somewhat religious, song and provides excellent contrast with the preceding Allegro. Though mostly quiet, it is not without drama. The Scherzo, allegro con spirito, which follows, has a Beethovian feel, especially its rhythm. The superb finale, Vivace, is brimming with appealing melodies and clever ideas. The rhythm of the main theme recalls the last movement Mozart's K.515 C Major Viola Quintet, but Kiel gives it a Hungarian treatment! Next comes a melody which is the half-sister to a theme from Schubert's D.956 Cello Quintet, but after a few seconds, Kiel turns it inside out, twists it and sends it galloping off at breathless speed. The sure touch of a master composer is everywhere in evidence.

Piano Quartet No. 2 by Friedrich Kiel. Performed by Ulrike-Anima Mathe, Hariolf Schlichtig, Xenia Jankovic and Oliver Triendl.

I. Allegro Moderato - 00:00
II. Intermezzo - Allegro - 10:50
III. Largo Ma Non Troppo - 15:32
IV. Rondo - Allegro Grazioso - 18:12

Friedrich Kiel's Piano Quartet No.2 in E Major, Op.44 was composed immediately after his First. Both were published in 1867.

The big, spacious, Allegro moderato ma con spirito, which begins the work starts quietly and in a calm fashion. It is only after much searching that we are presented with the heroic main theme. The lovely string writing recalls Schubert. The second movement, Intermezzo, allegro, is a very interesting kind of scherzo in which the tempo is hard to pin down, at times slow and almost lumbering, at others nimble. The trio section is a lovely waltz. The slow movement, Largo ma non troppo, begins with the piano alone, giving off a very solemn theme. When the strings diffidently enter, we here echoes of Late Beethoven. In a way, this short, ominous movement is nothing but a long introduction to the finale, Rondo, allegro grazioso. The charming main theme has a fleet elegance. There is much excitement and lovely melody throughout.

Piano Quartet No. 3 by Friedrich Kiel. Performed by Ulrike-Anima Mathe, Hariolf Schlichtig, Xenia Jankovic and Oliver Triendl.

I. Adagio Con Espressione - Allegro - 00:00
II. Andante Quasi Allegretto - 7:34
III. Presto Assai - 12:58

Friedrich Kiel's third and final piano quartet was composed in 1868, a year after his first two.

Unlike the other two, Piano Quartet No.3 is in three and not four movements. It begins with a somewhat solemn Adagio con espressione introduction before the entrance of the more buoyant Allegro. The lovely middle movement, Andante quasi allegretto, has the quality of a Lied or song. A faster trio section in the minor provides a fine contrast. An exciting finale, Presto assai, caps this superb work. In the best Schubertian tradition, it races along in 6/8 with barely a moment's rest until the appearance of the second theme.

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