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     Piano Quintets

English Works for Piano & Strings

Dutton Epoch CDLX7220

Edward Elgar

Three Movements for Piano Trio

Adela Maddison

Piano Quintet (1916)

Frank Bridge

Piano Quartet in C Minor (1902)

The Fibonacci Sequence
Dutton Epoch CDLX7220 79:26

All of these are first recordings. Two of the movements by Elgar – Rosemary and Empire March – will be familiar to those who know his smaller pieces. The realization by Paul Rooke was done to celebrate his 150th anniversary in 2007. Adela Maddison, who spent some years living in France – where she knew a number of well-known composers, especially Gabriel Fauré – and later in Germany, was better known for her songs and opera. The piano quintet was written on her return to England and reflects the events of the time. The music of Frank Bridge, for many years known principally as Britten's teacher, has recently been recorded more frequently. His piano quartet, suppressed for many years, shows the influence of Brahms, Fauré and Ravel.

[ Available on CD: Amazon - UK - Germany - Canada - France - Japan - ArkivMusic - CD Universe ]

Beyond the Famous Violin Concerto

CPO 999451

Max Bruch

String Octet, Op. posth. (1920)
Quintet for Piano & String Quartet, Op. posth. (1918)
String Quintet in A minor (1918)

Ensemble Ulf Hoelscher
CPO 999451-2 78:54

Two of these stunning works were written at the end of Bruch's long and productive musical life. If you already know and love the First Violin Concerto, Bruch's most popular work, you will certainly enjoy all of these exceptionally lovely pieces.

The Octet, with it's depth of emotion, and its rich scoring (virtuosic first violin part and use of bass viol to replace the more customary cello) creates a mood that is poignant and unforgettable.

The Viola Quintet is a delightful work and it contains an ear-worm Scherzo. I played the Scherzo over and over and wound up singing, whistling, tapping my foot and finally was compelled to purchase the parts.

Mention must be made of Ulf Hoelscher and his ensemble. It is an especially fine-sounding group, and he is a strong and sensitive violinist. This disc is a must-have for chamber music lovers. Thanks again to CPO for being a champion of lesser-known works.

[ Available on CD: Amazon - UK - Germany - Canada - France - Japan - ArkivMusic - CD Universe ]

[ Sheet music by this composer: Sheet Music ]

Influenced by Hungarian Folk Music

Hyperion CDA66786

Ernö Dohnányi

Piano Quintet #1 in C minor, Op. 1 (1895)
Piano Quintet #2 in E Flat minor, Op. 26 (1914)
Serenade in C Major for String Trio, Op. 10 (1902)

William Howard, piano
The Schubert Ensemble of London
Hyperion CDA66786 75:51

It's only in fairly recent years that we've been able to explore Dohnányi's output much beyond his Variations on a Nursery Song; there are treasures to be found, the piano quintets among them. The first shows the influence of Brahms and Dvořák while the second, coming nearly twenty years later, is a denser work. The Serenade is quite well-known, with a slow movement of great beauty.

As the more enterprising record companies delve deeper into the nineteenth century, we find more piano quintets to set beside those that are more familiar. These two belong in the best company.

[ Available on CD: Amazon - UK - Germany - Canada - France - Japan - ArkivMusic - CD Universe ]

[ Sheet music by this composer: Sheet Music ]

Hungarian Piano Quintets

CPO 777277

Karl Goldmark

Piano Quintet in B Flat Major, Op. 30 (1879)
Piano Quintet in C Sharp minor, Op. 54 (published 1916)

Oliver Triendl, piano
Quatuor Sine Nomine
CPO 777277-2 74:51

Goldmark is best known for his Rustic Wedding Symphony and his violin concerto, but neither attracts much recording attention, especially in recent years. These two quintets are much in the tradition of the great piano quintets by Schumann, Brahms and Dvořák, with a little Mendelssohnian playfulness. The piano writing is quite muscular without being overpowering, and there are some harmonies that remind us that Goldmark was a Hungarian composer.

[ Available on CD: Amazon - UK - Germany - Canada - France - Japan - ArkivMusic - CD Universe ]

[ Sheet music by this composer: Sheet Music Plus - ]

Champion of Italian Instrumental Music

Albany TROY191

Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco

Piano Trio #1, Op. 49 (1928)
Piano Quintet No 1, Op. 69 (1934)

The Arman Ensemble
Albany Records TROY191

These chamber works are like a big box of imported chocolates. Every movement seems different in character yet each of the works are perfectly integrated. There is clear influence of the fertile 1920's with strong suggestions of French and Spanish color. Each work is a fine example of chamber music that is both accessible immediately and worth many repeated hearings.

Castelnuovo-Tedesco studied with Pizzetti, who with several other Italian composers (Martucci, Casella, Malipiero, Respighi and others) founded societies for the propagation of modern Italian instrumental music. In Italy, Castelnuovo-Tedesco was in demand as a composer and as a critic and essayist. However, when the situation for Jews got much too dangerous, Italy's loss was America's gain. Castelnuovo-Tedesco left Italy in 1939 and became an American Citizen in 1946. He wrote over 200 film music projects, and for many years taught some of the brightest film composers including Henry Mancini, André Previn, Nelson Riddle and John Williams.

The Arman Ensemble members performing the trio are: Deniz Arman Gelenbe, piano; Fritz Gearhart, violin; Brian Manker, cello. The Quintet personnel are Deniz Arman Gelenbe, piano; Eric Prichard, violin; Hsiao-mei Ku, violin; Jonathan Bagg, viola; Fred Raimi, cello.

[ Available on CD: Amazon - UK - Germany - Canada - France - Japan - ArkivMusic - CD Universe ]

[ Sheet music by this composer: Sheet Music Plus -
   Score for the trio at Eastman School of Music, Sibley Library
   Score for the quintet at Michigan State University Library ]

Chamber Music from the Belle Époch

Hyperion 67391

Reynaldo Hahn

Sonata in C Major for Violin & Piano (20:12)
Soliloque et Forlane for Viola & Piano (7:42)
Romance in A Major for Violin & Piano (4:27)
Piano Quartet #3 in G Major (21:57)
Si mes vers avaient des alles (1:53)
Nocturne in E Flat Major for Violin & Piano (5:30)

Stephen Coombs, piano
Ccharles Sewart, violin
Yuko Inoue, viola
Philip De Groote, cello
Hyperion CDA67391 62:01

Hahn was a composer, a conductor, a performer, and a respected music critic. He was most popular before World War I (the Belle Époch) but subsequently fell out of fashion. He was often classified as a mere "salon" composer – with much of his music considered lightweight because it is immediately appealing and accessible. Fortunately for us, his music has come back into favor among recording artists.

If this sonata were not as hauntingly melodious and touching, it would simply be a curiosity, a total musical anachronism. Hahn wrote this sonata in 1926, yet in a blindfold test, one might guess it was sibling to the first Fauré (1877) or Franck (1886) violin sonatas. But the Hahn Violin Sonata is one of those rare gems that can always appeal to the musician and the listener. The form is classical, and the last movement of the sonata reprises the beautiful first movement melody, making a satisfactory arch. The second movement moves lickety-split, amusing and witty – only lasting for slightly over three minutes. This movement is very much in the jolly spirit of the third movement of the Op. 13 violin sonata of Fauré.

[ Available on CD: Amazon - UK - Germany - Canada - France - Japan - ArkivMusic - CD Universe ]

[ Sheet music by this composer: Sheet Music Plus - ]

Early Chamber Music

Timpani 1077

Paul Le Flem

Quintet for Piano & Strings in C minor 36:40
Sonata for Violin & Piano (1905) 28:57

Louvigny String Quartet
Alain Jacquon, piano
Timpani 1C1077

Le Flem's quintet sounds like it is a close relative of Ravel's string quartet or Faure's first piano quartet both in tonality and in emotional evocations. This haunting chamber music deserves a wider audience. The playing by Jacquon and the Louvigny String Quartet (Philip Koch & Fabian Perdichizzi, violins; Ilan Schneider, viola; Aleksandr Kramouchin, cello) is excellent, and the entire CD is an impressionist treat.

[ Available on CD: Amazon - UK - Germany - Canada - France - Japan - ArkivMusic - CD Universe ]

[ Sheet music by this composer: Sheet Music Plus ]

Rare Bartók

Naxos 8.550886

Béla Bartók

Rhapsody #1
Rhapsody #2
Andante for Violin & Piano
Piano Quintet

György Pauk, violin
Jenö Jandó, piano
Kodály Quartet
Naxos 8.550886 66:37

The rhapsodies for violin and piano, based on folk dances, are familiar from their versions for violin and orchestra. The rarity is the piano quintet, a 42-minute work from early in Bartók's career. His models include Richard Strauss, Brahms and Dvořák but with unmistakable influences of Hungarian dance. Even if you find later Bartók daunting, admirers of those composers will find much to enjoy.

[ Available on CD: Amazon - UK - Germany - Canada - France - Japan - ArkivMusic - CD Universe ]

[ Sheet music by this composer: Sheet Music Plus - ]

Right Through The Bone

RCA 15837

Julius Röntgen

Quintet for Piano & Strings Op. 100 (1927)
Trio for Clarinet, Viola & Piano (1921)
Sonata for Viola & Piano in C Minor (1924)
Sextet in G Major (1931)

ARC Ensemble
Artists of the Royal Conservatory (Canada)
RCA Red Seal 88697-15837-2 73:12

Ask a string player to free-associate on the word "octet" and you will hear "Mendelssohn". Ask a string player about the word "sextet" and you will most likely evoke the name "Brahms". Julius Röntgen's string sextet is a glorious addition to the repertoire. Although it was written in 1931, it is absolutely in the tradition and style of Brahms as are the other fine chamber works on this CD. They are all performed with excellence by the ARC ensemble, Artists of the Royal Conservatory. ARC is led by Simon Wynberg and is made up of faculty members of the Glenn Gould School at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto.

The title "Right Through The Bone" was inspired by Edvard Grieg's remark about his good friend Julius Röntgen and his distant relative, Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen. Wilhelm Röntgen's x-rays only went up to the bone and stopped. But Julius Röntgen's music went right through the bone and directly to the heart!

[ Available on CD: Amazon - UK - Germany - Canada - France - Japan - ArkivMusic - CD Universe ]

[ Sheet music by this composer: Sheet Music Plus - - Donemus ]

Shipboard Impressions

Timpani 1066

Jean Cras

Quintet for Piano and Strings (1922)
String Quartet (1909)

Alain Jacquon, piano
Quartet Louvigny
Timpani 1C1066 74:33

Jean Cras was an officer in the French Navy, and an extremely talented musical autodidact. He was tutored for a short but intensive period by Henri Duparc, and he spoke fluently the language of Debussy, Ravel, and the Impressionists.

Cras' Quintet for piano and strings was planned as a musical shipboard adventure. The four movements are marked "Clear and Joyful, Calm and Peaceful, Alert and Decisive, Passionate and Proud" and there are program notes to go along with them. As you listen, you can hear the influence of his native Brittany's sea shanties, the hints of the foreign ports of call, the exotic scales of Arabic and Asian music, and in the last movement – about three and a half minutes into the movement) – you can hear an imitation of a Chinese stringed instrument (erhu). All are woven seamlessly into the fabric of the music.

Ordinarily I don't like having "programs" imposed upon my listening, but there is enough good music here for you to write your own adventure. The constant motion is IN the music; the swells of sound could really be the sea!

There is another composition of Cras' that will thrill those who hunger for more ocean voyages: His Ship's Log (Journal de bard) can be found on Timpani 2C2037 in an excellent 2CD set of Cras' orchestral music. However I found that with just a piano and four strings Cras could provide me with the emotions and colors of my own cruise on a luxury liner.

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