Louise Farrenc (1804-75) not only achieved the near impossible of getting her music published in 19th c. France but was awarded a piano professorship at the Paris Conservatoire. Compositions for piano formed a part of her oeuvre, alongside works for chamber ensemble and orchestra. These pieces gradually fell from the repertoire and only began to be revisited quite recently. Her two quintets are performed by acclaimed ensemble Quintetto Bottesini, founded in 2006 with the intent of rediscovering rarely performed musical repertoire for violin, viola, cello, double bass and piano.
Sensational Piano Quintets from the French Clara Schumann
In a nutshell:
• A forgotten major woman-composer of the 19th century, Farrenc’s music is consistently high in quality.
• Strongly recommended if you like Beethoven, Hummel, Weber, and Mendelssohn. The sweeping Piano Quintet in A minor must be one of Farrenc’s greatest chamber works. Check out her piano trios, as well.
• Piano Quintet No. 1 in A minor (1839) is a dramatic work with a prominent and taxing piano part. From its powerful “Allegro” and frenetic “Scherzo” to the spirited Hummelian finale, this is Farrenc in top form.
• Piano Quintet No. 2 in E major (1840) is less impassioned and sensational than the A minor, but leaves an impression with two compelling movements: the sonorous and extroverted sonata-allegro, and the wildly animated and inventive “Scherzo.”
• Quintetto Bottesini delivers exhilarating performances; passionate and joyous. Linda Di Carlo (piano) tends to overpower the strings, but I think that’s actually desirable in these quintets.
Louise Farrenc (1804-1873) was an outstanding woman composer of the 19th century, in many ways eclipsing Clara Schumann and Fanny Mendelssohn. Historical accounts of her are enthusiastic. Schumann and Berlioz acknowledged her talent and leading musicians regularly performed her chamber music.