What is a Piano Quartet?

In classical music, a piano quartet is a chamber music composition (an ensemble work) for four players typically featuring piano plus strings, namely, one violin, viola and cello.

It's more than just a coincidence that chamber music repertoire from Haydn to Schumann includes so many piano trios, piano quartets, and piano quintets. Piano and strings have provided the grounds for several very successful chamber music instrumentations. All of these groupings of one piano with strings became all too popular and sought out instrumentations by composers who wanted to make a name for themselves.

Piano Quartet by Patricio da Silva

Contemporary Piano Quartet

Commissioned in 2003 and premiered in 2004 at the Cistermusica Festival in Portugal, this modern piano quartet by Portuguese-American contemporary classical composer Patricio da Silva is a three movement piece totaling 12 minutes of on stage glowing. With high energy drive, the different lines are scattered through the different instruments with occasional jazz and blues overtones, both outer movements provide a sense of forward movement and propulsion characteristic of the composer's writing style. The second movement is romantic, ritualistic at times, interwoven lyrical and sad/introspective moments.

"Piano Quartet" by Patricio da Silva received the European premiere by the Moskow Piano Quartet. The American premiere of Patricio da Silva's piano quartet took place at the 2006 Tanglewood Music Festival, summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, performed by the New Fromm Players.

Piano Quartet Sheet Music

Piano Quartet Sheet music (printable pdf of score and parts) for Piano Quartet by Patricio da Silva is available for download.

Piano Quartet Repertoire

Piano quartets by composers Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Robert Schumann, Ludwig van Beethoven, Johannes Brahms, Antonín Dvořák and Gabriel Fauré are today among the most popular works in the piano quartet repertoire. The piano trio, requiring the least number of players (piano, violin, cello) it is always the easiest and cheapest to produce in a classical music concert. So, quite understandably it holds the largest volume of pieces in the chamber music repertoire, far more than piano quartets or piano quintets. With chamber music too, economics rule.

There are several examples in chamber music repertoire of piano trios, piano quartets, and piano quintets by different classical composers who themselves created two versions of the same work by re-arranging for other instruments. Brahms for example, did just that with his piano quintet and his sonata for two pianos.