Hermann Berens d.ä. (1826−1880)

Zweites Gesellschafts-Quartett
[Sällskapskvartett/Social quartet no. 2 in D minor]

opus 48


1. Allegro appassionato
2. Andante con moto
3. Scherzo: Allegro non troppo
4. Finale: Allegro assai

  • Year of composition: 1860—70?
  • Work category: Other chamber music with piano and strings
  • Duration: Approx. 20-25 min


pno 4h, vn, vc

Examples of printed editions

Levande musikarv, Stockholm 2023. Critical edition by Cristian Marina.
August Cranz, C.28441, Leipzig

Location for score and part material

Mazerska sällskapets bibliotek

Description of work

1. Allegro appassionato D minor 6/8
2. Andante con moto F major 2/4
3. Scherzo: Allegro non troppo A major 3/4
4. Finale: Allegro assai D minor alla breve

Work comment

Piano duets were a staple ingredient of the drawing rooms and salons of the 19th century – as much a form of social life as a musical medium. In his Gesellschafts-Quartette, written in the 1850s and 1860s, Hermann Berens combined this domestic piano duet with a violin and a cello, forming what could be termed a piano trio with a reinforced piano part. Here, then, we have quartets with four players on three instruments. The name 'Gesellschafts-Quartett' as applied to this type of composition, which seems to have neither precursors nor successors, was probably coined by Berens himself. In Swedish, this is sometimes rendered as 'sällskapskvartetter', a term also current in the Swedish press in Berens' day. The combination of piano duet, violin and cello is unusual but in the 19th century sometimes occurred in drawing room pieces and arrangements of symphonies. In Berens' case we are looking at large-scale sonata compositions, similar in form to the piano trios in four movements by Beethoven, Schubert and Mendelssohn. Stylistically this music relates to the contemporary circle of Leipzig composers, and the three later quartets especially have what can be perceived as touches of Mendelssohn or Schumann.

Gesellschafts-Quartett no. 2 The ambience of Gesellschafts-Quartett no. 2 is that of German romanticism. The opening of the first movement could have been written by Mendelssohn. The structure of the movements and the strong melodic line generate a distinctly forward-moving energy. There are long, nicely focused lines of development. The music feels integrated while at the same time presenting such contrasting ear-openers as the mystical bridge passage leading back to the main theme in the Andante con moto movement (bars 47–56). The rhythmic opening of the finale is followed by an impassioned transition culminating in fortissimo melody from the piano and violin in unison (bar 44). Gesellschafts-Quartett no. 2 is listed in Hofmeister's sheet music catalogue for June 1856. In other words, it was apparently published while the composer was living in Örebro and working there as a military director of music.

© Martin Edin, Levande musikarv Transl. Roger Tanner


Media files

Edition Swedish Musical Heritage