Piano quintet

I previously posted a symphony and then a while back my latest choral work. I thought it might be time for some chamber music but am unsure what to post. The latest is always a good starting point and that happens to be the piano quintet written just over a year ago. This work, regarded by English composer (and one most admired by Toccata records Martin Anderson) Steve Elcock as my best to date, took as a starting impetus the well known piano quintet by Schnittke and although the end result is generally rather different, those who know that work will recognise similarities in the last movement at any rate. It's introspective and gloomy for much of its length which seems to match the modern aesthetic (I probably prefer some of my more sentimental and naive works but that's neither here nor there).

It can be found through the following Reelcrafter link https://play.reelcrafter.com/dko22/chamberworks

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  • I was going to say this piece is in an idiom I'm not well-versed in enough to comment, and then out of the blue just before 21:00, this crazy baroque/classical ditty tune pops out of nowhere in the most incongruous way and jolts me awake. Then it vanishes back into the shadows as suddenly as it came.  What was that all about??! 😂  There's definitely something going on here, but I feel like I'm missing out on the joke.

    • A joke it isn't. Perhaps a danse macabre before going to the scaffold? Perhaps a nostalgic memory of happier times? You have to decide taking the whole work into account!


      • I apologize for calling it a joke... well actually that wasn't what I meant. What I meant was that I found it very jarring, a jolting realization that I really do not understand what the music is trying to convey. As though somebody said something and it went way over my head.

        • well it could have been a joke! A composer like Malcolm Arnold will sometimes break into a silly march tune or something in the middle of a very serious symphony and Mahler for that matter can juxtapose violent contrasts.Or what about Shostakovich? It is one of the most important passages in the work, certainly, because of the contrast with the rest but there isn't a secret message attached (in this case -- it can be different in other works).

          • Shostakovich is certainly an interesting and enigmatic man, whether or not you believe the conspiracy theory about him being secretly subversive under an oppressive regime and using his music as his voice of dissent. He is full of musical humor (of the kind Bernstein talked about in his Norton lectures), quoting from other composers and from himself, and playing games with said quotations.

            One of my favorites is the opening of his 15th symphony, which quotes from William Tell with a few deliberately wrong chords. It inspired my own Threnody for the Victim of a House Fire Ignited by a Stray Firecracker, in which I (mis)quote Handel's royal fireworks music, then croak it out in a few strangled distortions before proceeding to trample all over it until it's mangled beyond all recognition. It returns in more-or-less recognizable form at the very end, except covered in the dust and ashes of contradictorily morose string chords before fading away like the eponymous spent firecracker.

            Another of my Shostakovich favorites is the finale of the 10th symphony, where the DSCH motif wrestles against what's supposedly the "Stalin motif" (or whatever it is Shosty was trying to refer to at the time) and eventually curb-stomps it and emerges triumphant.

            And of course, one can hardly fail to remember Shostakovich's signature death marches of doom, which feature in pretty much every symphony of his in one form or another. Whether they were meant as jokes or otherwise, they certainly qualify under Bernstein's definition of musical humor!

  • Lovely, and quite interesting melodies.

    I bit hard to understand, and a bit suspenseful.

    Very nice recording.


    • thanks very much for listening, Rene -- I'm glad you seemed to enjoy it! It's not one of my easier works, it's fair to say -- some are closer to a typical classical format.And a few are even light-hearted.


  • Hi David, I finally carved out some time to sit and give this a dedicated listen.  It is beautifully haunting.  Like H.S., I was initially thrown off by the change in the spirit of the music at about 20:27.  But in retrospect, it is entirely fitting.  It feels like a necessary counterbalance to the generally subdued atmosphere of the piece, which I love.  Good work! 

    • This work is by my standards relatively obsessive in its gloom so some sort of counter-balance was necessary if only a fleeting glimpse of a different world. It's nice you seem to have grasped what I was on about (in as much as I know myself...) Thanks for carving out the time!



  • Very well done David.  I don't have much time so longer pieces get neglected but this one is worth the time. It is melancholic but there is enough motion built in to prevent the doldrums from taking over. You make good use of quiet and near silence; that takes courage but it is effective.  The mentioned passage at 20:00 seems to be a logical contrast to me, not too Baroque really.  I listened to some of your String quarted 7 which seems to make more use of repetition than the Piano quintet so I listened for that but it is less in evidence here, not that it matters really.  My only slight quibble would be your ending.  I don't think formulas for endings or anything else are necessarily important but somehow I questioned it when I heard it FWIW. 

    Good work!

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