The Chicago Philharmonic Chamber Players will perform Sunday, November 3, 2013 in Park Ridge at 3:00 p.m. Selected pieces include Antonin Dvorák, Bagatelles for 2 violins, cello and piano, Op. 47 and Erno v. Dohnanyi: Piano Quintet No. 1 in C Minor, Op. 1. Performing musicians will be John Goodwin, piano, Ann Palen, violin, Karl Davies, violin and Paula Kosower, cello.
Bagatelles for Two Violins, Cello, and Piano, Op. 47
Antonin Dvořák (1841-1904)
A bagatelle is by definition a simple piece of music, dance-like, and most frequently composed for solo piano. Beethoven and Schubert wrote dozens. Dvořák’s opus 47 set of five bagatelles is distinguished by the facts that, a) they are chamber (as opposed to solo) compositions, and b) that they originally were written including a now obsolete (or at least forgotten) keyboard instrument, the harmonium, which was developed in the early 1840s. It is believed that the odd instrumentation (that is, without viola) was due to the “instrumentation” of Dvořák’s friends at the time—two violinists and a cellist. Dvořák himself was the violist of the group, but in order to perform more complicated compositions, it is believed that he dropped his viola part and instead took up the keyboard of the harmonium (which today is played on the modern piano).
Dvořák composed the “Bagatelles” over four days in May 1878, around the same time as his “Slavonic Dances” established him as a major force on the European musical scene. The composer had entered the “Slavonic Dances” in a composition competition of the Vienna Composers’ Society, and they were widely published after catching Brahms’ attention. A listener would be hard-pressed to appertain that the “Bagatelles’” were composed in such a short period—they are sophisticated miniatures from a master who, according to the music publisher Simrock (Brahms’ own, who began publishing Dvořák’s work at the latter’s behest after the aforementioned music competition) “could pull anything out of his sleeve.”
Piano Quartet No. 1 in C Minor, Op. 1
Dohnányi is for some reason the least celebrated of a trio of great Hungarian composers. The other two, Zoltán Kodály (1882-1967) and Béla Bartók (1881-1945), are familiar to almost any concert-goer; Dohnányi’s legacy, on the other hand, lies in a handful of rarely heard chamber works. In fact, the very form of his name is a matter of contention—while the other two proudly used the Hungarian spellings of their names on their published compositions, Dohnányi frequently used on his the German form of his name, Ernst von Dohnányi, thereby distancing himself from the early nineteenth-century Hungarian national movement in music. (Beethoven had done the same—except for using the Dutch “van” instead of the German “von,” both of which supposedly indicated nobility; Dohnányi‘s wife, also musician, was insistent on the matter, while Beethoven was of course unmarried.)
Dohnányi wrote the present work, his very first published one, in 1894, when he was only 17, and unlike many of his contemporaries, managed with it to establish himself as a serious composer in the public’s mind. Its dramatic writing parallels the passionate emotions of the piano quintets of Schumann and Brahms, but is also imbued with the impetuosity of extreme youth. The quintet announced Dohnányi’s arrival as a major force in European music, a position he cemented in five years later in 1899 with his Piano Concerto No. 1, Op. 5, a tour-de-force he was able to use to establish himself as a pianist in the concert halls of Europe.