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François-Joseph GOSSEC Flute Quartet No. 1 in D Major Op. 14 • 1770 • (1734-1829)
• reflecting the music of Rameau and Stamitz of the Mannheim School, the quartet (from a set of 6) is full of lively dialogue shared almost equally among the four instruments
The Parisian expat from Belgium was a prominent composer, conductor, and professor of composition at the Paris Conservatoire, and the founder of the Concert des Amateurs. He was a successful and prolific composer of instrumental music, including symphonies and chamber music. Mozart, upon meeting him in 1778, described him to his father as “A very good friend and at the same time a very dull fellow.” Mozart was, however, greatly impressed with Gossec’s Requiem, for which he is best known. John H. Baron, a music professor, observed that “Gossec’s quartets are melodically and rhythmically simple and evince the rare influence of both French rationalism and opera buffa.”
Ambroise THOMAS String Quartet in E minor Op. 1 • 1833
• lucid and melodically fertile, the quartet reveals the influence of Rossini and Paganini (it was written during the year he spent in Rome) and at the same time confirms his admiration for Beethoven
Thomas is remembered today for his opera, Mignon, which had a run of over 1000 performances at the Opéra-Comique between 1866 and 1894, making it one of the most successful operas in history. Born to parents who taught music, Thomas entered the Paris Conservatoire in 1828, while continuing his piano studies with the virtuoso pianist Friedrich Kalkbrenner. In 1832, he won the Prix de Rome, which enabled him to travel to and study in that city for a year. He took with him a love for Mozart and Beethoven, but once in Rome he became an ardent admirer of the Italian cantilena and the melodic tradition. It was during this sojourn that he wrote his chamber music—a piano trio, a string quintet, and a string quartet.
Gabriel FAURÉ La bonne chanson Op. 61 • 1898
• a song cycle of 9 beautiful, complex mélodies based on poems by Paul Verlaine ~ for voice, string quartet, and piano
Among his most masterful compositions, much of the cycle (originally for voice and piano) was written in the summers of 1892 and 1893, when Fauré was staying in Bougival as a guest of the banker Sigismond Bardac and his wife, the soprano Emma Barda. Fauré fell in love with Emma, the inspiration for the spontaneity of the cycle, its joyful virility, and optimism. Emma, who later married Debussy, sang the newly-composed material for Fauré each day. A private premiere was held at the home of Countess de Saussine on 25 April 1894 with the lyric tenor Maurice Bagès, and its first public performance a year later was sung by Jeanne Remacle with Fauré at the piano. La bonne chanson was received poorly, and Saint-Saëns thought Fauré (his pupil) had gone nuts by writing music with such exhaustingly quick key changes.
Claude DEBUSSY Piano Trio in G Major • 1879
• written at age 18, the charming and graceful work is influenced by two composers he admired—Franck and Schumann
Debussy composed the Trio in Fiesole, near Florence, during the summer of 1880 while employed by Nadezhda von Meck (Tchaikovsky’s devoted patron) to teach her children. Madame von Meck’s entourage was joined by recent graduates of the Moscow Conservatory, including a violinist and cellist, who were asked to perform piano trios with Debussy every evening. It was during this time that he composed his only piano trio. The work was not published until 1986 after the manuscript (which was thought lost) was found in 1982. Considerable editorial work was needed to piece it back together from various sources.