Piano Quintet
for piano and violin, with violin, viola and violoncello (2004)

14 min.

1 April 2006
Orchestra of St. Luke's Chamber Ensemble: Krista Bennion Feeney, violin / Krzysztof Kuznik, violin / Louise Schulman, viola / Myron Lutzke, cello / Peggy Kampmeier, piano
Second Helpings 2006 Series: Crosstown New York: New Music, New York Style; Chelsea Art Museum
New York, NY

2 April 2006
Second Helpings 2006 Series: Crosstown New York: New Music, New York Style; Dia:Beacon
Beacon, NY

Written in memory of my father

Poem: When I was Twelve

Biscardi Music Press No. B48-04-1
Distribution: Theodore Front Musical Literature, Inc.

Piano Quintet, for piano and violin, with violin, viola and violoncello (2004), was written in memory of my father who died when I was twelve. I am forever looking for him. He bought me a violin when I was nine. He serenaded my mother on the accordion after dinner at dusk smoking a cigarette – mostly love songs from Italy. But for a long time I couldn't find a way to express that loss in music, so I wrote a poem about it – at the end of which my father enters the fabric of my work:
What I'm finding, now that I'm older than he ever had a chance to be,
Is that I love him for who and what he was.
He lives in the details of my music.
And I've stopped asking myself
What sort of man I would have been
If my father hadn't died when I was twelve.
I finally did find a musical way to remember him in Piano Quintet, inspired by the recognition scene from Book Sixteen: Father and Son in The Odyssey, translated by Robert Fitzgerald:
I am that father your boyhood lacked
and suffered pain for lack of. I am he.
Piano Quintet is in part a composite of sketches dating back to 1987. I attempted to incorporate these ideas in a variety of ways — a work for orchestra, a ballet, an act of an opera — before I settled on a chamber version inspired by having heard a performance of Schumann's Piano Quintet in E-Flat Major, Op. 44 (1842). I also borrowed musical images from several of my earlier works, including Mestiere (1979), Trasumanar (1980), Traverso (1987), Piano Concerto (1983), "Recovering" (2000), and In Time's Unfolding (2000), all of which explore the passage of time, loss, recovery, and transcendence. Recognition, for piano and violin with string orchestra (2004/2007), is an arrangement of this work.

To a certain extent I relied on a rather loose telling of The Odyssey to shape my musical narrative and the overall structure of this quintet. The piano may be interpreted as "Odysseus" and the violin as "Telemakhos", Odysseus's son. And the opening web-like music suggests the goddess Athena as she pulls Telemakhos out of his anger and daydreams and sets him on a hero's path of action.

This work was begun during the summer of 2002 while I was in residence at Copland House, Cortlandt Manor, New York, as a recipient of the Aaron Copland Award, and was completed during a residency at The MacDowell Colony, Peterborough, New Hampshire, in the fall of 2004.

"The chamber ensemble of the Orchestra of St. Luke's featured four New York composers [Chester Biscardi, Martha Mook, Greg Sandow, and Joan Tower] on an important program of new music presented at the Chelsea Art Museum on Saturday afternoon. The recital is part of their Second Helpings series, wherein the performance is reprised upstate at Dia: Beacon on Sunday . . .

Finally, violinist Krzysztof Kuznik,violist Louise Schulman, and cellist Myron Lutzke accompanied Ms. Feeney and Ms. Kampmeier in the world premiere of the Piano Quintet of Chester Biscardi, head of the music department at Sarah Lawrence College. Yes, accompanied is the correct word, as the piece is really a duet for violin and piano with a modern version of a string continuo.

The work is inspired by the long-distance relationship of Telemachus and Odysseus, and Mr. Biscardi read a Homeric stanza as a prelude. The composer creates an ancient atmosphere with a craftsmanlike usage of string color, somewhat reminiscent of the orchestral parts in Benjamin Britten's "The Rape of Lucretia." The offsetting of the characters was interesting both sonically and dramatically, and the performance was certainly first-rate."
Fred Kirshnit, The New York Sun (2006)

Simmering with pathos, Biscardi's Piano Quintet is a loving, touching remembrance by the composer of his father, whom he lost when he was twelve. In a sense, it is more of a duo for violin and piano with accompaniment than a true quintet, the other three strings providing textural support rather than participating with any genuine equality, but this imaginative, sombre, introspective work is Biscardi's American Classic.
Byzantion, MusicWeb International Classical Reviews (September 11, 2011)

The 2004 Piano Quintet, while a more abstract work, never stints on its lyrical impulse, and has a morendo ending that seems natural, rather than a precious gesture.
Robert Carl, Fanfare: The Magazine for Serious Record Collectors (January 2012)

The Piano Quintet (2004) is at 14 minutes the longest work on the program. Written in memory of the composer's father, and based loosely on the story of Telemachus and Odysseus, the work is touching in its noble lyricism. Like everything else on the program, its secrets seem to be encoded in other Biscardi works, which are liberally quoted according to the composer's notes.
Allen Gimbel, American Record Guide (November/December 2011)

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