Sunday, November 23, 2014

Encores - The First Piano Quartet

Founded in 1941 as a radio ensemble, the First Piano Quartet, consisting of four pianists - Vladimir Padwa, Frank Mittler, Adam Garner and Edward Edson - enjoyed great popularity during its first decade or so of existence. It's easy to understand why. Their arrangements, made by the players themselves, were great fun, were usually quite brilliant and were performed with a tightness of ensemble that made the four pianos sound almost like one super-piano. The music chosen, popular classics and semi-classics, made few demands on listeners' ears; the pieces never exceeded two 78-rpm record sides in length. When the "FPQ" began recording for Victor in 1946, the company initially didn't consider them Red Seal material, putting their first three single releases and their first album (a set of Lecuona favorites) in the black-label 46-0000 "Double Feature" series. By 1948 these had all been reissued with red labels, and all their subsequent releases appeared as Red Seals, including this, their third album:

First Piano Quartet Encores:
Liszt: Liebestraum No. 3
Grieg: In the Hall of the Mountain King
Rimsky-Korsakov: Flight of the Bumblebee
Mendelssohn: Scherzo in E minor
Villa-Lobos: Polichinelle
Brahms: Lullaby
Rachmaninoff: Italian Polka
Schubert: Moment Musicale No. 3
Liadov: The Music Box
Shostakovich: Polka (from "The Golden Age")
Virgil Thomson: Ragtime Bass
Recorded Dec. 22-23, 1947
RCA Victor WMO-1263, three 45-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 57.85 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 42.70 MB)

The group's last RCA release was 1952's "FPQ on the Air" (LM-1227/WDM-1624), by which time Padwa had been replaced with Glauco d'Attili - the first of numerous personnel changes to the ensemble. A few EP reissues followed, but their recordings had all but vanished from the Schwann catalog by 1959, though the group continued to exist until 1972.


  1. Hi Bryan,

    Firstly, thank you greatly for all the fascinating music that you upload and for the always intriguing information that you preface them with. Very much appreciated.

    Secondly, I wonder if the "First Piano Quartet" were the same group of players who featured as the "Virtuoso Piano Quartet" on a multitude of Reader's Digest recordings? (essentially the same record label).

    Thanking you in anticipation.


    Douglas (UK)

    1. No, the Virtuoso Piano Quartet wasn't the same group as the First Piano Quartet, though clearly inspired by them. (Another of the FPQ's imitators, the Philharmonic Piano Quartet, recorded for Columbia.) The Virtuoso Piano Quartet consisted of Jascha Zayde, Paul Jacobs (before he achieved fame as a contemporary music expert), Mitchell Andrews and Milton Kaye.

    2. Bryan,

      I'm indebted to you.



      Douglas (UK)

  2. The 12-inch 78 that I my mother had (and I do now) had their radio theme (Paganini Variations) backed with some Chopin etudes. This was a "double feature" but had a blue (sort of turquoise) label. I might be mistaken but I believe at least one LP by them later appeared on Decca's "Gold Label" classical series.

    As always, thanks for your outstanding posts.

    1. I've seen those "double feature" issues as both black label and blue (I would call it teal) - don't know why the difference; possibly it has to do with different pressing locations.

      Had no idea about the Decca LPs; thanks for the tip! On looking into it, there seem to have been three issues, all stereo, and credited to the "Original Piano Quartet." Three of the players (Mittler, Garner, Edson) were the same as of old; the fourth was William Gunther.

  3. This is great, Bryan. Many thanks.

  4. Do you happen to have The First Piano Quartet's RCA Victor album of Ernesto Lecuona pieces? I will be very, very delighted to hear them again....

    1. I'm sorry, Mark, I don't have that one anymore. Five FPQ single records from my old collection turned up recently, but no sets.