About this Recording
9.70142 - RITZEN, P.: Piano Quintet / FRANCK, C.: Piano Quintet (Ritzen, Moscow Chamber Academy)

Peter Ritzen (b. 1956): Piano Quintet in F sharp Minor


Peter Ritzen composed his Quintet for Piano and Strings in Taipei, Taiwan, early in 2006. His long association with the renowned SalzburgerSolisten, dating from 1995 at their festival Salzburger Schlosskonzerte, inspired him to compose a work for this great ensemble. The origins of the material found in the quintet are varied. The material for the opening movement dates from 1991 in Vienna, and is from a piano concerto by Peter Ritzen entitled, the Anastasia Concerto. The composer pointed out that the name is not taken from that of the famous daughter of Czar Nicholas II of Russia, but came as a result of a more personal relationship. Like Schumann, he converted the letters of this name into musical notes and contrived a musical theme of unusual beauty. In 2006 he adapted this theme and material into the Con moto first movement of the present quintet. The second movement, Scherzo, was conceived and completed in February 2006. Its form and structure is Brucknerian and reflects the composer’s affection for the music of Anton Bruckner. That said, the harmonic language is very French, reflecting the composer’s training at the Royal Conservatory in Ghent, and the middle part is almost a “Café Chantant” theme, worked out with the rhythmical components of the Scherzo. The Adagio, created at the same time as the preceding Scherzo, is written for the left hand of the pianist, with undulating arpeggios à la Ravel under a concerto-like cello part. This may be viewed as an elegy, spiritually dark and profound. The Finale, like the first movement, is derived from earlier material. In 1999, Peter Ritzen was invited to perform in Belgium the Quintet by César Franck with the Arriaga Quartet, an ensemble named after the famous Spanish composer. For the occasion, he surprised the quartet with a single movement work entitled A.R.R.I.A.G.A. Variations for piano and strings. Unfortunately this work could not be performed on that occasion, but the material turned out to be ideal as a grand finale for the later, and larger quintet, now recorded.


César Franck (1822-1890): Piano Quintet in F minor

César Franck’s Piano Quintet, composed in 1878, is a milestone in chamber music, and one of the composer’s most profound compositions, both in regard to its originality and intensity of expression, marking Franck’s arrival into the ranks of great composers. That said, two important people in his life were much disturbed by the intensity of expression in the work: his wife, who felt that the expression was more “earthly” than sacred, and the composer Camille Saint-Saëns, whose emotionally temperate style seemed more appropriate to the Victorian modesty of the era.

César Auguste Jean Guillaume Hubert Franck was born in 1822, in Liège, Belgium, to a father from the German-Belgian border and a German mother. His father had ambitions for him to become a concert pianist, and he studied at the conservatoire in Liège before going to the Paris Conservatoire in 1838. In 1858 he became organist at the newly consecrated Saint Clotilde Basilica. Here he began to attract attention for his skill as an improviser. From 1872 until his death he was a professor of organ at the Paris Conservatoire. His pupils included well-known composers Vincent d’Indy, Ernest Chausson, Louis Vierne, and Henri Duparc.

In 1890 Franck was injured in a serious traffic accident. After this tragedy, he wrote his beautiful Trois Chorales for organ. Sadly he died as a result of complications from the accident shortly after completing this work. He was interred in the Cimetière du Montparnasse

Many of Franck’s works employ so-called cyclical form, a method of achieving unity among several movements through the technique of returning to previously presented themes. His music is often contrapuntally complex as well, using a harmonic language that is prototypically late Romantic, showing a great deal of influence from Franz Liszt and Richard Wagner. The key to his music may be found in his personality; his friends record that he was a man of utmost humility, simplicity, reverence and industry, besides a temperament for intense mysticism and devout Catholicism.

The recording of the Franck Quintet was made on 21 December 2008, at the wonderful Castle of Uitbergen. The Moscow Chamber Academy is joined by Peter Ritzen, who performs here on a historical Erard piano, built in 1878, the year that César Franck’se Quintet was composed.

Paul Vaness

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