BRAHMS: Piano Quintet in F Minor, Op. 34/DVORAK: Piano Quintet in A Major, Op. 81 – Clifford Curzon, piano/Budapest String Quartet – Naxos

by | Oct 28, 2005 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

BRAHMS: Piano Quintet in F Minor, Op. 34/DVORAK: Piano Quintet
in A Major, Op. 81 – Clifford Curzon, piano/Budapest String Quartet

Naxos 8.110307,  73:31 ****:

The second of two Naxos releases devoted to the collaborations between
Clifford Curzon (1907-1982) and the Budapest String Quartet for the
Columbia record label, this restoration by Mark Obert-Thorn brings back
some happy memories of ML 4825, my first LP of the Dvorak Piano
Quintet. For the Brahms Quintet, in order to own it on record, I had to
wait until I had the money to afford the Leon Fleischer/Juilliard
Quartet version on the Epic label.

The 1950 Brahms Quintet is the first recording Curzon and the Budapest
made together. Their performance is linear and forward-moving, with
almost unwavering impetus and few inner fluctuations once the original
tempos are set. That the Brahms Quintet unabashedly borrows from
Schubert is old news: the second movement is a variant of Schubert’s
song, “Pause,” and the entire last movement copies Schubert’s Grand Duo
for two pianos. Curzon, who studied with both Leschetizky and Schnabel,
makes elegant, lyric sense of the demanding piano part, toning down the
Bismarckian Scherzo so that it not so militant as it is under say,
Rudolf Serkin. I have always found Joseph Roisman’s first violin tone
wiry, but he has ample tonal weight in the support from cello Mischa
Schneider and viola Boris Kroyt. The last movement, with its almost
twelve-tone row theme, has some fine touches of color and smooth
transitions.

The Dvorak Quintet from 1953 is among the marvels of recorded chamber
music. A sense of lyric intimacy exists which certainly belies
Roisman’s badly healed broken wrist at the time, and the occasional
flurry of temperament that erupted among the collaborators. Curzon’s
diaphanous keyboard work is exemplary, particularly in the interior
movements, where he applies a perfect pianissimo to the aura of
cut-time strings in the Dumka and for the exalted trio of the Furiant.
Recorded in the Coolidge Auditorium of the Library of Congress, the
recordings suffer from a somewhat dry acoustic, but the level of
execution should prove attractive to music lovers and audiophiles alike.

–Gary Lemco

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