Programme notes for Piano Quartet No 2 in F minor

These notes are reproduced from the original programme notes for the Whittington International Chamber Music Festival 2015 and are copyright Christopher Symons.

Mendelssohn: Piano Quartet No 2 in F minor, Op 2

I Allegro molto Following the statement of the first theme by the strings, punctuated by the piano, which then leads the way into a second, more lyrical theme, based on a descending A flat major scale. As the strings develop these themes, the piano offers virtuosic configurations. The ensuing coda sparkles into a lively dance, with cascades of arpeggios and broken chords creating a brilliant flourish at the end.

II Adagio Now it is the solo piano which introduces the first theme, a leisurely melody in the warm key of D flat major. A second, placid theme appears, underpinned by some rather dramatic tremolos and ostinatos in the piano. After some surprising harmonic shifts, the movement closes with the piano offering an elegant and highly ornamented version of the first melody over repeated chords in the strings.

III In a break from tradition, Felix here ventures an Intermezzo, replacing the conventional scherzo/trio. Originally, an intermezzo described light musical entertainment alternating with the acts of early Italian tragedies, but gradually came to mean just ‘incidental music’. Here, it simply acts as an interlude, the piano dominating the first section while the strings have the melody in the second.

IV Allegro molto vivace In this virtual perpetuo moto the pace is breathless and all four instrument share equally the fun, dancing through the principal themes as one. They are often in dialogue as the music whirls forward, leading to a coda in which the piano’s broken octaves and the strings’ infectious melodies conclude in twelve dramatic chords.