Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Ernő Dohnányi - Piano Quintets; Serenade for string trio (The Schubert Ensemble)


Composer: Ernő Dohnányi
  1. Piano Quintet No. 1 in C minor, Op. 1: 1. Allegro
  2. Piano Quintet No. 1 in C minor, Op. 1: 2. Scherzo (Allegro vivace) - Trio - Reprise
  3. Piano Quintet No. 1 in C minor, Op. 1: 3. Adagio, quasi andante
  4. Piano Quintet No. 1 in C minor, Op. 1: 4. Finale (Allegro animato - Allegro)
  5. Serenade for string trio in C major, Op. 10: 1. Marcia (Allegro)
  6. Serenade for string trio in C major, Op. 10: 2. Romanza (Adagio non troppo)
  7. Serenade for string trio in C major, Op. 10: 3. Scherzo (Vivace)
  8. Serenade for string trio in C major, Op. 10: 4. Tema con variazioni (Andante con moto)
  9. Serenade for string trio in C major, Op. 10: 5. Rondo (Finale)
  10. Piano Quintet No. 2 in E flat minor, Op. 26: 1. Allegro non troppo
  11. Piano Quintet No. 2 in E flat minor, Op. 26: 2. Intermezzo (Allegretto)
  12. Piano Quintet No. 2 in E flat minor, Op. 26: 3. Moderato - Tempo del primo pezzo

The Schubert Ensemble of London
Mayumi Seiler, violin
Ralph de Souza, violin (1-4, 10-12)
Douglas Paterson, viola
Jane Salmon, cello
William Howard, piano (1-4, 10-12)

Date: 1995
Label: Hyperion



Well-crafted music with a distinctive melodic drift, nicely played and beautifully recorded (the two quintets could provide an object-lesson in how to balance a piano with strings). The First Quintet (1895), an auspicious Op. 1, opens in Wagnerian high dudgeon and proceeds in deadly earnest with rhetorical sequences galore and a novel recapitulation heralded by a statement of the principal theme on unison strings (track 1, 6'53''). The second movement is a Brahmsian Scherzo (Brahms had himself endorsed the work) with a Schumannesque trio (track 2, 2'03''), the third a melancholy Adagio, quasi andante with a tender central theme (track 3, 2'38'') and the finale a jaunty Allegro animato with the obligatory fugal work-out. The Second Quintet (1914) is leaner, darker and more mysterious. More original too, with some luscious harmonies (try 2'19'' into the first movement on track 10) and an autumnal “Intermezzo” in place of the expected Adagio. The annotation is sympathetic, although I did wonder what had happened to the “cathartically triumphant final pages” of the Second Quintet: playing the piece through finds us being ushered out not with a bang, but with a definite whimper.

Choice between the Schubert Ensemble of London and the equally adept Vanbrugh Quartet recording (with Martin Roscoe), welcomed by NAR, will probably depend on preferred couplings. Roscoe offers the Suite in the Old Style, Op. 24 for solo piano, whereas the Schubert Ensemble give us one of Dohnanyi’s finest chamber works – the highly eventful Serenade for two violins and viola. Again the playing is crisp, intelligent and warmly phrased, although no one alert to great recordings of the past will be able to resist the lightning virtuosity and heart-rending eloquence of Heifetz, Primrose and Feuermann (available either on RCA as part of their epic Heifetz edition, or as a single-disc release on Biddulph). Still, that recording was made back in 1941 and the new performance is, like its Quintet disc-mates, extremely well recorded.

-- Gramophone

More reviews:
BBC Music Magazine  PERFORMANCE: **** / SOUND: ****


Ernő Dohnányi (July 27, 1877 – February 9, 1960) was a Hungarian conductor, composer and pianist. He used a German form of his name, Ernst von Dohnányi, on most of his published compositions. Dohnányi's compositional style was personal, but very conservative. His music largely subscribes to the Neoromantic idiom. Some characterize his style as traditional mainstream Euro-Germanic in the Brahmsian manner (structurally rather than the way the music actually sounds) rather than specifically Hungarian, while others hear very little of Brahms in his music.


The Schubert Ensemble of London (formed 1983 in London) is a popular quintet with an unusual makeup: a standard piano quartet with the addition of a double bass player, the same instrumental forces needed to perform Schubert's Trout Quintet. The group's choice of repertory staples has generally favored works by Romantic composers, but it is also well known for its advocacy of contemporary music. The current membership of the group is as follows: William Howard (piano), Simon Blendis (violin), Jane Salmon (cello), Douglas Paterson (viola), and Peter Buckoke (double bass).


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