Obscure Music Monday: Farrenc's Piano Quintet No. 1
Louise Farrenc (May 31, 1804 - Sept. 15, 1875) was a French pianist, teacher, and composer. Born in Paris, she started the piano at an early age, and later on also showed a knack for composition. At the age of fifteen, her parents let her study composition with Anton Reicha at the Paris Conservatory. Later on she embarked upon a successful concert career, started a publishing house with her husband, and eventually became a Professor of Piano at the Paris Conservatory. As a composer, Farrenc first started out writing solely for the piano, for which she got much praise, including from Robert Schumann. Later on she started writing chamber music, which many consider to be some of her best writing.
One of her chamber pieces, Piano Quintet No. 1, was written around 18:39. This four-movement work displays Farrenc's knack for her ensemble writing, and also creating various textures. Throughout each movement, the piano gets a prominent line, though the way Farrenc weaves it in with the other lines, you'd almost forget how busy the pianist is until just the right time. She integrates each instrument with incredible balance and thoughtfulness. In the Allegro, the strings open with a unison line, and for a while the piano stays in the background before sparking triplets take the limelight, but then also effortlessly move to the back to make way for the strings again. In the Adagio ma non trope, the cello begins in a high register with the sweetest of lines. You might be reminded of Schumann from time to time throughout this movement. The Scherzo is action packed with the piano and violin taking most of the glory as each part takes turns racing after the other. The Finale keeps the work propelling forward right from the off with determined and serious lines. Then a secondary theme, merry and bouncy, comes in to break the intensity throughout. The piece ends succinctly, without any drama or fuss, tidy as can be.
Here are some recordings of this fantastic work for you to enjoy!*
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