An Exploration of Dvorak’s Piano Quintet in A Major

posted on   by  Loi Heldt

by Michael Gu

Over the past nine years of my musical career, chamber music has always played a role. My first chamber music experience was performing Haydn Piano Trio No. 39, however, my favorite chamber music piece is the Haydn “Sunrise” Quartet (although it doesn’t involve piano). My favorite piece of chamber music that I have performed is the Beethoven “Ghost” Trio. Nonetheless, the Dvorak Piano Quintet in A Major is no exception, and it ranks amongst my favorite chamber works currently!

As English writer Alec Robertson once stated:

“It is simply one of the most perfect chamber-music works in existence… Here there is not a note too many, and there are plenty of notes! The melodies are of the greatest beauty and freshness, and a joyous springtime happiness flows through the music.”

The Dvorak Piano Quintet in A Major Op. 81 was composed in August of 1887. The piece is actually a revision mixed with elements of Czech folk music, being based off of Piano Quintet Op. 5. Dvorak rediscovered the score 15 years after a friend reintroduced it to him; he destroyed the original manuscript because he disliked it. As demonstrated in the music, this piece exemplifies his Czech roots; the Dumka famously known from Dvorak’s Dumky Piano Trio to the Bohemian folk dance theme in the third movement, the Scherzo.

I especially appreciate the usage of his culture in this music. This piece is legendary because of its contrasting movements and usage of its lyricism and harmony. With its broad range of emotional intensity (both positive and negatively), Dvorak really combined all of his talents as a composer to make a masterpiece, worthy to stand out as the only piano quintet, unless you count the previous “version”, that he wrote. Over the last few months, I have become infatuated with this piece and I am so excited to perform this piece this coming March!