Berlioz composed Les nuits d’été (Summer Nights) for voice and piano in 1841. It is speculated that he wrote these sensuous and luscious songs for his mistress Marie Martin, who was an aspiring singer. She accompanied him on his travels and she performed the songs frequently. The three songs from the cycle of six begins with the buoyant Villanelle (song of the Village), then the devastatingly beautiful Le spectre de la rose (The spirit of the rose), and ends with I’île inconnu (The unknown island).
Ravel composed his Piano Trio in a rush to enlist in the war during the summer of 1914. Luckily, he was too slight to serve as a soldier and ended up as an ambulance driver instead. At the time, he was simultaneously sketching a piano concerto that he never fully executed and employed native folk songs from his native Basque region, giving the piece a rhythmic and exotic melodic quality. The heady exuberance of this piece and the strong finale engulf and continue to thrill audiences.
Franck wrote his Piano Quintet in 1879, forty years after his last piece of chamber music. In the interim, he had devoted himself to composing sacred music and his organ playing. The premiere of the piece was a shock as the audience had not anticipated “the dramatic intensity, the frequently tragic quality, of the new work.” There was unbridled criticism from Saint-Saëns, to whom the piece was dedicated and who played at its premiere, and Liszt who stated that Franck “in its search for dramatic expression” had exceeded “the legitimate bounds of chamber music.” Nonetheless, the piece was embraced by the public and received an immediate second performance and has since remained a favorite of audiences and performers.