Monday, January 12, 2015

The Philharmonic Piano Quartet

The Philharmonic Piano Quartet
(L to R: Max Walmer, Ada Kopetz, John Scales, Bertha Melnik)
The great popularity, during the 1940s, of the First Piano Quartet doubtless caused many imitators to be spawned. One that was good enough to get promoted and recorded (by Columbia, in direct competition with the FPQ which was on Victor) was the Philharmonic Piano Quartet, formed by four young Juilliard alumni. Unlike the FPQ's players, which were cloaked in anonymity on the labels, the Philharmonic's were identified as Ada Kopetz, Bertha Melnik, Max Walmer and John Scales (a great name for a pianist, no?), but there's nothing in the album to enable one to match names to faces! (My thanks to a reader for providing another photo that identifies the players by name - see the comments below.) The group made two albums for Columbia, of which this was the first:

"Music For Four Pianos" (arrangements by Moritz Bomhard):
Lecuona: Andalucía
Traditional: Cradle Song
Prokofiev: Peter and the Wolf - "Procession"
Strauss: Du und Du ("Fledermaus Waltzes")
Morganstern: Toccata Guatemala
The Philharmonic Piano Quartet
Recorded April 2, 1949
Columbia Masterworks set MM-852, three 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 54.40 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 37.57 MB)

Can anybody out there identify the melody of the "Cradle Song?" It sounds vaguely familiar but I can't place it for the life of me. The "Peter and the Wolf" excerpt is identified as "Procession", which would lead one to believe the final section will be heard - as indeed it is, but not until after the themes of Peter and the hunters in their original forms are, as well as a bit of the music heard while the bird is taunting the wolf! Sam Morganstern, the composer of the last item, was best known not for his composing but for his musical reference works; I grew up with a dog-eared copy of his "Dictionary of Musical Themes" which he co-authored with conductor Howard Barlow.


  1. Left to right: Walmer, Kopetz, Scales, Melnick. Here's their agency press photo:

    1. Thank you for that! I knew somebody out there would have more information than I.

  2. Hi Bryan,

    Thanks for the post! FYI, the FLAC version of the Philharmonic Piano Quartet zip file is corrupted.
    Take care!