three big piano quintets, one cool concert

old church concert poster

This Friday evening – May 30th – at 7:30pm, four of my favorite chamber musicians (and myself), will perform three seldom-heard piano quintets as the Astoria Music Festival Piano Quintet in a prelude concert to the 2014 Astoria Music Festival.

Photo: Joe Cantrell
Photo: Joe Cantrell

The three works include none of the famous Big Three piano quintets (Brahms, Dvorak, and Schumann), but rather three works which are equally deserving of a place in the repertoire. Here is pianist Cary Lewis’ preview of the three works we’ll be playing:

The Dohnanyi Op 1 is probably the best known of the three quintets on the program.  In my humble opinion, it is every bit as good as the Brahms Quintet, with the added attraction of being less familiar even to sophisticated audiences.   The final movement is very sassy, and with the words we have made up to go along with it, somewhat scatological.   This is the piece for those listeners who wish Brahms had written more than one quintet!

The Korngold Quintet, Op 15 was written when the young prodigy, (whose heirs, as you know, live here in Portland) was about 22.   It is over-the-top music, full of color and drama, foretelling his ability to paint sound pictures that served him so well in his later, totally unanticipated life in Hollywood.   Bold, heroic melodies, heartbreakingly tender moments, and flashes of humor abound.  This piece was a biggy in German-speaking Europe before it became a literally fatal flaw to be Jewish, and somehow it never recovered its former and well-deserved glory.  Traditional harmonic practice is pushed to the very limits of its capabilities, leaving atonality as the only course of action for music to progress.   It is quite hard and busy,  with all kinds of instructions to the performers, but the listener can just sit back with eyes closed imagining the block-buster movie that is playing.

The Schickele 2nd piano quintet is pure Schickele.   I’ve played enough of his non PDQ Bach music to realize that even though Prof Schickele has his own persona, it is hard to spend a lifetime studying and promoting the works of a mythical composer without being influenced.   This is clearly American music with some very tricky rhythmic intricacies that will keep all participants on their toes.  I don’t expect too many long faces when this piece bounces to an end.

If you purchase your tickets online before Friday, you save $5 off the same day ticket price of $20. Tickets are available at

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