Piano Quintet No.2 in A major Op.81

Composer: Antonin Dvořák (b. 1841 - d. 1904)
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Composer: Antonin Dvořák (b. 1841 - d. 1904)

Performance date: 05/07/2018

Venue: Bantry Library

Composition Year: 1841 - 1904

Duration: 00:41:18

Recording Engineer: Tom Norton, RTÉ

Instrumentation: 2vn, va, vc, pf

Instrumentation Category:String Quintet

Artists: Apollon Musagète Quartet (Paweł Zalejski, Bartosz Zachłod [violins], Piotr Szumieł [viola], Piotr Skweres [cello]) - [quartet]

Dvorák actually wrote two piano
quintets though the first one is seldom performed. He wrote the first one, also
in A major, in the summer of 1872, but seems to have forgotten about it until
fifteen years later when his publisher was pressing him for new works. At this
stage he unearthed a copy of the score the original quintet and tried to revise
it. Clearly he felt this early work even with extensive revisions did not come
up to standard and he immediately set about writing a second quintet in A
major, which is the one we all know so well.


are few works in the entire chamber music repertoire that have such an
exquisitely beautiful opening – over a rippling piano accompaniment the cello
breathes a gentle and wistful theme. 
This is rudely interrupted, in Dvorák’s customary way, by a lively
version of a fragment of the theme.  This
eventually gives way to a luminous vision of the theme in its original form
culminating with the solo violin singing out the theme before another rude and
boisterous interruption – piano triplets, viola staccato quavers over an
ostinato rhythm.  The second subject, in
the composer’s own instrument, the viola, follows the same abrupt style,
initially quiet and melancholic, then loud and forceful, followed by a slow
winding-down to the repeat of the exposition. 
The next time around it leads directly into the development with the
same dynamic contrasts between yearning melancholy and wild gaiety, culminating
with a dramatic statement of the main theme that moves immediately into the
recapitulation extended by a boisterous coda.


The dream-like opening of the Dumka mirrors the opening of the first
movement, but without the same rude interruptions.  This quietly sad theme recurs throughout the
movement, most distinctively in the viola’s unmistakable voice.  The second theme breaks in joyfully as a
smiling duet between the violins. There is a brief central vivace section clearly related to the opening material, which soon
returns, led by the viola.  The same
themes are then worked through again culminating in a long reconsideration of
the increasingly hypnotic opening theme. 
The coda is an exquisitely quiet close.


The scherzo is dominated by the infectious gaiety and
skipping rhythm of the main theme.  There
are subsidiary dances in different tempi but the main one keeps returning.  The amorous trio is enlivened with the rhythm
of the opening. The Quintet ends with a stirring finale, the energy levels
stoked by a riotous scatter of invigorating themes, returning inevitably to the
opening Rondo theme.  There’s an amusing
mock fugue in the middle as if to say that even such an academic device can be
made to dance. The end is jubilantly affirmative.