KeyWinds Quintet


     Mozart wrote his quintet for piano and winds in 1784 and it was premiered a few days after its completion at the Royal National Court Theatre in Vienna with Mozart performing at the piano.  Mozart confided in his father that he felt it was the best thing he had ever written in his life.  He was 28 years old at the time and lived another seven years.   This Piano Quintet was the only quintet that Mozart wrote.  The work is in three movements with the opening movement beginning with a slow introduction marked Largo, and then a cheerful Allegro moderato follows.  The second movement is an exquisitely beautiful Larghetto in the dominant key and some scholars believe it is reminiscent of the middle section of Leporello's aria from Don Giovanni.  The final movement is an energetic rondo where the thematic material returns numerous times and near the end Mozart writes out a cadenza for all five instruments.  Throughout the work, Mozart maintains a chamber music approach, carefully weaving together the piano and the wind quartet while ensuring instrumental autonomy and carefully blended combinations and sonorities .  No instrument is given preferential treatment, except for the occasional concerto-type passages on the piano, and throughout the work all of the instruments continually provide thematic support, utilizing short phrases and motifs for variety.  


     Beethoven was an admirer of Mozart's Piano Quintet and this was the inspiration for Beethoven's own Quintet in 1796, five years after Mozart's death.  The Quintet was premiered at a concert in Vienna in 1797 and in order to maximize sales, Beethoven quickly adapted it for Piano Quartet, leaving the piano part intact while scoring the wind parts for strings.  Beethoven utilized the same key, form, and scoring as Mozart and there are numerous similarities to be found in the thematic material as well.  Like Mozart's Quintet, Beethoven's first movement begins with a slow introduction marked Grave and is followed by a gentle cantabile themed Allegro ma non troppo.  One difference alry though is the greater depth and quantity of development in Beethoven's music and the first movement ends with a Coda of seventy measures.  The second movement is a beautifully constructed Andante cantabile where the main theme is augmented by contrasting material in g minor and b flat minor.  The finale is a vivacious rondo in 6/8 time and the influence of the hunting horn can be heard.  Unlike Mozart's Quintet where the instruments are interwoven, Beethoven tends to set all of the instruments in opposition with a fairly prominent concerto-like role for the piano.


     Mussorgsky wrote a musical work in ten movements for solo piano in 1874 inspired by his visit to an art exhibition of the sketches, stage designs, and architectural works of his recently deceased friend, the Russian artist Viktor Hartmann who had died in 1873 at the age of 39.  Each movement represents one of the drawings or artworks of Hartmann interspersed with a recurring Promenade theme that represents Mussorgsky strolling through the exhibition.  The pictures depicted in the music in order of appearance are:  The Gnomes, The Old Castle, Tuileries, Cattle, The Ballet of Unhatched Chicks in Their Shells, Two Jews: One Rich, One Poor, The Market at Limoges, The Catacombs, The Hut on Fowl's Legs, and The Great Gate of Kiev.  At the time of Mussorgsky's death in 1881, Pictures at an Exhibition had not yet been performed nor published and in 1886 Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov facilitated its publication.  In 1922 Maurice Ravel orchestrated the work and it is in this form that the work is most recognized.  Other orchestrations of the work were made by several conductors and the pianist Vladimir Ashkenazy.  In 1971 the British pop band, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, wrote and recorded their own art-rock interpretation of Pictures at an Exhibition.  With a desire to perform this work with the KeyWinds Quintet, Yvonne Gillespie, pianist with the Quintet decided to orchestrate the work for woodwind Quintet, piano, and percussion and this work has become an exciting addition to the group's repertoire.


     In 1876, a young 32 year old Rimsky-Korsakov was studying music following his stint in the Russian Navy, and he heard about a prize contest in Russia for new chamber music.  He set about writing a quintet for Piano and wind instruments along with a separate work for string Sextet.  Unfortunately Rimsky-Korsakov's Quintet was ignored entirely by the jury although the performance was said to be a disaster due to incompetent musicians, especially a supposedly drunk pianist.  The work was not even completely performed for the jury and it was later performed at a concert of the St. Petersburg Chamber Music Society with positive audience reaction.  Rimsky-Korsakov mentioned in his musical memoirs that the first movement, Allegro con brio, was in the classical style of Beethoven and there are two contrasting themes that are developed primarily through repetition in different keys.  The Andante second movement contains substantial horn and clarinet solo melodies which are developed utilizing a Russian technique of repetition over differing harmonic structures.   The final movement is a Rondo with very catchy folk-like melodies and each instrument, except the bassoon, is highlighted at different times with a Cadenza.  Since Rimsky-Korsakov had been studying counterpoint during the composition of his Quintet, it isn't surprising that this work contains several extensive fugues played by the woodwinds and by the piano.  

Our repertoire