Wednesday Music: Mahler’s Piano Quartet in A Minor

Today’s piece for Wednesday Music is a bit… different than what I usually choose. For one thing, it’s chamber music. For another, the composer is a lot more modern than those I often feature on here. (That’s not saying much, considering most of my choices were written by someone who died in 1791.) I’m not great admirer of Gustav Mahler—I don’t dislike him, I just had to play a lot of his work and did not particularly enjoy playing it!—but I do like this piece. Here’s a little bit about it.

  • Mahler wrote this when he was fifteen or sixteen, during his time in school. It’s supposed to be the first movement of a full piano quartet,* but he never finished the quartet.
  • There are three known performances of this quartet in the nineteenth century: all took place in 1876. After that, the piece was sort of forgotten and not performed until his widow rediscovered it in the 1960s.
  • If you don’t normally listen to classical music but think this piece sounds familiar, you may have heard parts of it before. It’s on the soundtrack for the film Shutter Island. Confession: that’s actually where I first heard it.

I hope you enjoy it!

Or click here to see on YouTube.

*Note: in classical music, a piano quartet means a piano plus a string trio (a violin, a viola, and a cello). It doesn’t mean four pianos playing together.