Quintet for Piano and Strings Op.42

Composer: Louis Vierne (b. 1870 - d. 1937)
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Composer: Louis Vierne (b. 1870 - d. 1937)

Performance date: 03/07/2010

Venue: Bantry Library

Composition Year: 1917

Duration: 00:30:25

Recording Engineer: Anton Timoney, RTÉ lyric fm

Instrumentation Category:Piano Quartet/Piano Quintet

Instrumentation Other: pf, 2vn, va, vc

Artists: Danish Quartet (Frederik Øland, Rune Sorensen [violins], Asbjørn Nørgaard [viola], Fredrik Sjölin [cello]) - [quartet]
Philippe Cassard - [piano]

Quintet for Piano and Strings Op.42

I am constructing … a Quintet of vast proportions, which will give
full expression to my tenderness

and the tragic
destiny of my child … The wild and furious energy with which I am tackling this

matches the depth
of my grief, and I will make something powerful, grandiose and strong … Perhaps
one who has suffered every grief, every bitterness, every anguish, may be able
to ease and console the sufferings of others—that is the role of the artist …’ 
Louis Vierne on composing his Piano

Louis Vierne was
not blessed with great good fortune, he was born almost completely blind and
suffered an extraordinary litany of personal disasters from a life-threatening
accident, typhoid, divorce, death of his youngest son from TB, almost complete
loss of his remaining sight and in 1917 the loss of his surviving son killed in
action. Alone and almost sightless he threw himself into composing this Quintet
in his memory.

The Quintet is cast in three massive
movements as if the distraught father needed an enormous space to encompass the
immensity of his sorrow. The slow introduction is restrained, piano and strings
alternating in an ominous and impenetrable darkness until the main theme
unfolds in the strings to a rippling piano accompaniment. An arresting motto
theme leads directly into the second subject, a stunningly beautiful
inspiration in the cello that expands from tenderness to an outspoken grief
welling up from the depths. The solo piano opens the development with nervous
semiquavers holding off the impatient strings leading to an extended treatment
of the deeply moving second subject. The recapitulation returns to the menace
of the slow introduction before launching into a torrential outburst that
strains the five instruments to their limit. Eventually the second subject
returns dolce and the movement sinks to a gentle

The Larghetto opens with a father’s muted
lamentation until the piano abruptly attempts to fragment the mood of
restrained sorrow. The melody is taken up again by the strings until the mood
is again disturbed but leading almost inevitably to the shattering central
climax. Gradually the movement winds down with tolling piano chords and gentle
echoes of the lament in the strings but with all passion spent.

The finale opens with vicious piano
chords that the strings try in vain to mollify, string tremolandi then lead to
a recall of the opening movement until this comparatively quiet opening is
abruptly shattered by the big, expansive main theme bursting in. The music is
driven relentlessly forward until the central section is heralded by a piano
solo recalling Liszt’s La
Lugubre Gondola, 
muted string
chords, a bell-like piano and other funereal effects. Then the main theme
catches fire once again and pounds to a decisive finish.