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CD Review

Louis Vierne

Chamber Works

  • String Quartet, Op. 12
  • Piano Quintet, Op. 42
Levente Kende, piano
Spiegel String Quartet
Dabringhaus & Grimm MDG6441505-2 58m DDD
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This disc may take some listeners by surprise as chamber music by Louis Vierne is a bit of a tall order for a composer who has always been associated with the organ. These works are full of wonderful treatment of keyboard instruments and strings. The Quartet Op. 12 dates from 1894, and is the first major work by the then 24 year old composer. It is a promising proposition and although Vierne' merely regarded it as an exercise to try all that he had learned from Widor, the work has many positive features, and its freshness and spontaneity deserve more promise than criticism.

The Piano Quintet is inspired by one of the many sorrowful trials that Vierne was subjected to throughout his life; the death of one of his sons (the only surviving) killed in action in November 1917. Written in early 1918 in a fit of feverish activity, the composer pours out all his despair, anguish and bitterness, and yet the work also has a streak of tenderness that lays bare all the superb fatherly qualities of this extraordinary artist.

The Spiegel String Quartet together with Levente Kende give a performance of overwhelming intensity, and then wholehearted commitment enables them to penetrate deep into the very soul of a work steeped in grief. The Quartet is treated with a relaxed approach, as it should and shows Vierne's lighter side with music that is simple and economic. Sound and presentation are in the best MD&G tradition.

Copyright © 2008, Gerald Fenech