PIANO QUARTET (1991) Op.36

Opus number: 36

Title: Piano Quartet

Instrumentation: violin, viola, cello, piano

Date written: July, 1991, American Academy in Rome

Length: twenty-one minutes

Commissioner: The Boston Conservatory for its 125th Anniversary

Premiere performance: Boston Conservatory Chamber Ensemble, Victor Romanul, violin, Scott Woolweaver, viola, Andrés Díaz, cello, Janice Webber, piano, February 9, 1992, Boston Conservatory

Important subsequent performances: Joanna Jenner, violin, Sarah Clarke, viola, Eric Bartlett, cello, Larry Bell, piano, Boston Conservatory and Greenwich House, New York, October 20 and 22, 1992

Recordings: tape of premiere at Boston Conservatory; video of Jenner, Bell, Bartlett, Clarke performance at Boston Conservatory library

Program notes:  The Piano Quartet was commissioned by The Boston Conservatory Chamber Ensemble to commemorate the 125th anniversary of The Boston Conservatory. The work was begun and completed in July of 1991 at the American Academy in Rome and was premiered February 9, 1992.

The first movement, fantasia soli, is a sonata form with four themes, one for each instrument. The violin plays con bravura, the viola plays agitato, the ‘cello appassionata, and the piano maestoso. Each instrument plays in its own time and sound world with overlapping cadenzas. The differences among the instrumental characters are reconciled only by sharing the harmonic structure common to all movements.

The second movement, Scherzando duettini, is a light contrast to the first movement. The initial four themes are here reduced to two that imitate one another mockingly. Movement three, Canto a tre voce, or song in three voices, is a lyrical nocturne with a surprising central section in which a song is “discovered,” uniting the disparate conflicts of the first two movements. The fourth movement, Partita di quattro, or “foursome,” is a rondo finale that emphasizes unison rhythms and general agreement while each instrumental pair retains its own individuality.

Reviews:  “The Piano Quartet has an interesting formal design, with overlapping solo fantasy-cadenzas coalescing into duets, then trios, then, in the finale, a unison Partita.” –Richard Dyer, “A mixed all-Bell program at the Boston Conservatory,” The Boston Globe, October 22, 1992