Peter Ritzen – Piano Quintet No. 1 in F sharp minor
(Ghent, 21 januari 1956)
Peter Ritzen, who already received his first piano lessons at the age of three, studied at the Royal Conservatory of Ghent, which was then led by the organist and composer Gabriel Verschraegen (1919-1981). Under the internationally renowned pianist, composer and conductor François Glorieux (1932-2023) he studied chamber music, while under the eminent pianist Louis Pas (1913-2013) he obtained a First Prize in piano with highest distinction in 1978. In 1981, he was laureate of the international piano competition Young Virtuosos and that same year he also received the prize of the Alex de Vries Fund in Antwerp. From 1981 to 1983, he continued his studies at the Mozarteum in Salzburg under the famous Russian pianist Tatiana Nikolayeva (1924-1993), after which he obtained the Diplôme Supérieure d’Exécution in 1984 at the École Normale de Musique de Paris Alfred Cortot under the Polish piano pedagogue Marian Rybicki (1915-1987).
On top of his activities as a pianist in international concert halls and in the recording studio – he is associated with the label NAXOS – Ritzen is also a composer. His great familiarity with Chinese culture has inspired him to create compositions influenced by Chinese tradition. His compositions include three Chinese rhapsodies for piano (1987-1989), three piano concertos (Concerto No 1 China in the Year of the Dragon, 1989; Concerto The Last Empress, 1994 and Concerto for Taiwan, 2000) and the ‘transcendental symphony’ Heavenly Peace for organ, choirs, large orchestra, Chinese percussion and instruments and soloists to a libretto by Santiago Rupérez Durá (2003). In 2009, he wrote the ‘sacred symphonic poem’ Finis est infinitus for soprano, choir, large ensemble and percussion on a libretto of his own, and in 2017 he composed the symphonic poem Die Wildrose for choir organ, soloists and orchestra to poems by priest-poet Anton Van Wilderode (1918-1998) translated into German.
Ritzen pursues artistic activities both in China and Europe. In Vienna, he has been founder and artistic director of International Leschetizky Academy since 1991, and since 2014 he has been founder and music director of the New Cosmos Philharmoniker Wien. In Beijing, he has been president of the New Cosmos Society since 2011, and from 2021 to 2023 he was artist-in-residence of the National Performing Arts Group in Chongqing, China.
It was a particularly successful concert with the Salzburg Soloists in Taipei in 2006 that prompted Ritzen to compose this quintet. In fact, he also dedicated the work to violinist Luz Leskowitz and his Salzburg Soloists.
The first movement is a reworking of an earlier concerto and is based on the letters ANASTASIA [A = A, N = G, etc.]. The name refers to the youngest daughter of Tsar Nicholas II, but also to an Anastasia of Chinese descent Ritzen had met in Vienna. In his own words, in the ABA form of the Scherzo, following the example of his beloved composer Anton Bruckner (1824-1896), Ritzen confronts the binary with the ternary measure. A café chantant-like melody resounds in the ternary measure. In the elegiac Adagio, the cello takes the upper hand, accompanied by contrapuntal movements in the other strings and a piano part for the left hand. The final movement consists of twelve variations on ARRIAGA, the surname of Spanish composer Juan de Arriaga (1806-1826), nicknamed ‘the Spanish Mozart’. With Arriaga, Ritzen wants to refer to his friendship and collaboration with Santiago Rupérez Durá, the former Spanish representative in Taipei who wrote librettos for him. Ritzen composed a first version of this variation set in 1999, which he reworked in 2006 as the finale of this piano quintet.
The quintet was recorded in Ghent on 20 December 2008 by Peter Ritzen and members of the Moscow Chamber Academy and released on CD by Naxos in 2011.
Jan Dewilde (based on information provided by the composer)
(translation: Jasmien Dewilde)
This score was published in collaboration with the Centre for the Study of Flemish Music (www.svm.be).
read Flemish and German preface … > HERE