Piano Quintet in F minor op.14

The Piano Quintet in F minor dates from 1878-1879.  Cesar Franck did not write chamber music for more than a quarter of a century. The opus marks the beginning of a prolific final period of work. It has been called Franck’s “chamber symphony.” Indeed, this large-scale composition in three movements is filled with so much expressive power and unsuspected passion that it astonished the entire audience at the premiere. It took place in a concert at the Société Nationale on January 17th, 1880, performed by Camille Saint-Saëns on the piano and the Marsique Quartet. Saint-Saëns caused a scandal – when the composer handed him the notes, a gesture of dedication of the work to his friend (when the score was printed he later wrote it on the title page), he ostentatiously left them on the piano and left the hall. Saint-Saëns’s anger has an explanation: he played the piano part a prima vista, and as he entered the scorching emotional scale of the music, he realizes what was the source of inspiration for Franck. It was his charming private student in composition Augusta Holmès, for whom he also felt an ardent longing. Madame Franck was overcome with rage as well… Whatever the truth (perhaps just a romantic impulse?), the composer ultimately create one of the finest piano quintets. The intense development of thematic material in a never-ending flow of different imagery sculpts a perfect dramaturgy of the form into a perfect ensemble.

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