Piano quintet

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In classical music, a piano quintet is a work of chamber music written for piano and four other instruments. The genre particularly flourished in the nineteenth century.

Until the middle of the nineteenth century, the instrumentation most frequently consisted of piano, violin, viola, cello, and double bass. Following the phenomenal success of Robert Schumann's Piano Quintet in E-flat major, Op. 44 in 1842, which paired the piano with a string quartet (i.e., two violins, viola, and cello), composers began to adopt Schumann's instrumentation. Among the most frequently performed piano quintets, aside from Schumann's, are those by Franz Schubert, Johannes Brahms, Antonín Dvořák and Dmitri Shostakovich.[1]

The piano quintet before 1842[edit]

While the piano trio and piano quartet were firmly established in the eighteenth century by Mozart and others, the piano quintet did not come into its own as a genre until the nineteenth century.[2] Its roots extend into the late Classical period, when piano concertos were sometimes transcribed for piano with string quartet accompaniment.[3] Not before the mid-nineteenth century was music ordinarily composed expressly for this combination of instruments. Although such classical composers as Luigi Boccherini wrote quintets for piano and string quartet, it was more common through the early nineteenth century for the piano to be joined by violin, viola, cello and double bass.

The first piano quintet written for this combination was the Piano Quintet in f minor, Op. 41, of Jan Ladislav Dussek (1799); works for the combination were also composed by Franz Schubert (the "Trout" Quintet (1819)), Johann Nepomuk Hummel (1802, 1816), Ferdinand Ries (1817), and Louise Farrenc (1839, 1840).[4][5]

Schumann and the Romantic piano quintet[edit]

Robert Schumann, lithograph by Josef Kriehuber, in 1839, three years before the composition of his piano quintet.

Not until the middle of the 19th century did Robert Schumann's Piano Quintet in E-Flat major, Op. 44 (1842) firmly establish music for piano and string quartet as a significant, and quintessentially Romantic, chamber music genre.[6]

By 1842, the string quartet had evolved into the most important chamber music ensemble, and advances in the design of the piano had expanded its power and dynamic range. Bringing the piano and string quartet together, Schumann's Piano Quintet took full advantage of the expressive possibilities of these forces in combination, alternating conversational passages between the five instruments with concertante passages in which the combined forces of the strings are massed against the piano. In Schumann's hands, the piano quintet became a genre "suspended between private and public spheres" alternating between "quasi-symphonic and more properly chamber-like elements."[7]

Schumann's quintet was immediately acclaimed and widely imitated.[1][8] Johannes Brahms was persuaded by Clara Schumann to rework a sonata for two pianos as a piano quintet. The result, the Piano Quintet in F minor (1864), is one of the most frequently performed works of the genre.[9] Notable compositions by César Franck and Antonín Dvořák further solidified the genre as a quintessential "vehicle for Romantic expression."[1]

20th century[edit]

In the first half of the twentieth-century, the piano quintet attracted composers with strong roots in Romanticism, including Gabriel Fauré, Edward Elgar and Dmitri Shostakovich, all of whom composed noteworthy works in the genre. However, unlike the string quartet, which remained an important genre for twentieth-century composers, the piano quintet came to acquire "a somewhat conservative profile, far from major developments" in musical expression.[10]

List of compositions for piano quintet[edit]

The following is a partial list of compositions for piano quintet. All works are scored for piano and string quartet unless otherwise noted.

Before 1800[edit]

19th century[edit]

1900 and after[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Stowell, Robin. The Cambridge Companion to the String Quartet, p. 324.
  2. ^ The quintets for piano, oboe, clarinet, horn, and bassoon composed by Mozart and Beethoven are usually described as "quintets for piano and winds" so as to distinguish them from compositions for piano and four strings.
  3. ^ Randel, Don Michael, The Harvard Dictionary of Music, p. 699.
  4. ^ Smallman, Basil The Piano Quartet and Quintet: Style, Structure, and Scoring , p. 3.
  5. ^ Smallman, Basil. The Piano Quartet and Quintet: Style, Structure, and Scoring, p. 26.
  6. ^ Stowell, Robin The Cambridge Companion to the String Quartet, pp. 323-324.
  7. ^ John Daverio, 'Robert Schumann: Herald of a "New Poetic Age."' (1997, Oxford), p. 256
  8. ^ Smallman, Basil. The Piano Quartet and Quintet: Style, Structure, and Scoring, p. 53.
  9. ^ [1] Rodda, Richard E. "Piano Quintet in F minor, Op. 34," n.p.
  10. ^ Stowell, Robin. The Cambridge Companion to the String Quartet, p. 325.
  11. ^ "Goldmark Quintets". Retrieved 4 August 2009. 
  12. ^ "Description Page - Sgambati First Piano Quintet". Edition Silvertrust. Retrieved 4 August 2009. 
  13. ^ "Description Page - Stanford Piano Quintet". Edition Silvertrust. Retrieved 4 August 2009. 
  14. ^ "Description of Disc with Both of Thuille's Quintets". Retrieved 4 August 2009. 
  15. ^ "Description Page - Thuille Piano Quintet in E flat". Edition Silvertrust. Retrieved 4 August 2009. 
  16. ^ a b "List of works by Charles-Marie Widor". IMSLP. 
  17. ^ "James Aikman - Piano Quintet". Non-Sequitur Music Publishing. Retrieved 2014-09-17. 
  18. ^ "ARENSKI Anton Stéphanovitch Suites pour piano n°1 à 5". abeillemusique.com. Retrieved 2010-12-24. 
  19. ^ a b "Bacewicz Worklist". Polish Music Information Center. 1998–2003. Retrieved 6 August 2009. 
  20. ^ Trevor Bray (1965-06-24). "Frank Bridge: A Life in Brief ~ Appendix 3: List of Works: 122". Trevor-bray-music-research.co.uk. Retrieved 2010-12-24. 
  21. ^ "FURTWANGLER Piano Quintet [RB]: Classical Reviews- Aug 2002 MusicWeb(UK)". Musicweb-international.com. Retrieved 2010-12-24. 
  22. ^ Alan Rawsthorne: A Bio-Bibliography at Google Books. p. 33.
  23. ^ Rochberg, George; Gene Rochberg. Five Lines, Four Spaces: The World of My Music at Google Books. p. 111.
  24. ^ Piano Quintet Op. 1: Scores at the International Music Score Library Project

Further reading[edit]

  • Basil Smallman (1994). The Piano Quartet and Quintet: Style Structure, and Scoring, New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-816640-0.

External links[edit]