D'Indy's official first chamber work, the Piano Quartet No. 1, prompts questions his biographers have yet to answer. Though the premiere was given December 28, 1878, by an under-rehearsed scratch ensemble with the composer at the piano, and received generally favorable notices, d'Indy held it back for a decade. Was the score he published in 1888 significantly revised? D'Indy was 27 in 1878 and, though he had been composing steadily, had yet to establish himself. Pasdeloup had played through the Scherzo of his Symphonie italienne -- which remained unpublished and unperformed -- in 1871, but the following year Duparc introduced him to César Franck, to whom he showed a string quartet. "There are some good things in it," Franck told him, "it shows spirit and a certain instinct for dialogue between the parts; the ideas would not be bad -- but -- that is not enough; the work is not finished -- in fact, you really know nothing whatever." After his initial mortification, d'Indy returned to Franck for private composition lessons, following him to the Conservatoire as a student in his organ -- and unofficial composition -- class, which would eventually include Chausson, Ropartz, Bizet (briefly), and Debussy (reluctantly). By the time the Piano Quartet achieved its premiere, d'Indy had concluded his studies with Franck and was in thrall to Wagner's operas, having heard Tristan -- the most radical of them -- in Munich in company with Chabrier in 1880, though he was already conversant with the scores from playing them through with Duparc as piano duets. D'Indy's biographer Léon Vallas thought it likely that for his first completed chamber work d'Indy might have drawn on material from the quartet he initially showed Franck. Winged with fetching melody and turbulently impassioned, it affords an uncharacteristic glimpse of youthful Sturm und Drang, while the choice of piano quartet for its working out very likely owed to recent ambitious works in the medium by Castillon (1869) and Saint-Saëns (1875). The seething volatility of d'Indy's first movement owes something, perhaps, to the first act of Tristan. It is, in any case, more operatic than the frieze-like construction of d'Indy's own operas, though its regular sonata form is not yet an instrument employed with narrative sureness. The melancholic second movement Ballade is a Lied in five episodes, while the rondo Finale sparkles with a charm and joie de vivre forecasting the Poème des montagnes and Symphonie Cévenole, and venturing a first use of the "cyclic" principle with a discreet allusion to the Ballade.
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Description by Adrian Corleonis
- 1. Allegro non troppo
- 2. Ballade
- 3. Allegro vivo