D’Erlanger: Piano Quintet in C Minor; Dunhill: Piano Quintet in C Minor, Op. 20 – Piers Lane, piano/ Goldner String Quartet – Hyperion CDA68296, 73:14 (8/28/20) [Distr. PIAS] ****:
Recorded 7-9 February 2019, the two lush and romantic quintets addressed by Piers Lane and the Goldner Quartet extend their excursions into rare and neglected repertory.
Naturalized Englishman Frederic D’Erlanger (1868-1943) survives among record collectors almost exclusively because Antal Dorati led a performance of the 1935 ballet Les cents baisers (The Hundred Kisses) with the London Symphony Orchestra. The Piano Quintet in C Minor (1902) in four movements enjoys the grand scale of German models but without the stentorian, portentous weight that an artful imitator of Brahms might have brought to bear.
Lyrical and dramatic, the sonata-form, first movement of D’Erlanger, Allegro moderato – Allegro molto, projects an emotional turbulence tempered by a gentle gift for melody. Besides the florid keyboard writing, often in the late-Romantic style of Cesar Franck or Gabriel Faure, the string parts evince a natural sense of line, as we often witness in the grand, even heroic, sweep of the cello part, realized by Julian Smiles. If Piers Lane’s fleet rendering of the keyboard part accurately conveys D’Erlanger’s own prowess, the composer himself embodied a potent virtuoso.
The second movement, Andante, generously bestows melodic tissue that grants the Goldner viola, Irina Morozova, a substantial and lyrical contribution. The strings begin on mutes as the Andante opens, and the coda will return to a muted sonority. The lyrical second subject and its harmonization enjoys a folk idiom, not so distant from Elgar and Dvorak. Lane’s keyboardalternates between a glistening, fragile music-box and a lush, arpeggiated singer of ardent songs. The ensuing Scherzo: Allegro pummels us with lusty energy in which Lane and cellist Smiles scamper or vent in long runs. A touch of Mendelssohn, perhaps, informs the breathless hustle of this virtuosic, acerbic third movement. The last movement, Finale: Allegro ma non troppo, bears the dark, epic scope of the opening movement, filtered by allusions to prior motifs, especially from the Andante. The secondary tune yields to the impulse to playful dance rather than heaving storm, but the music wants to maintain its heroic and triumphant ethos; and, to this end, violins Dene Olding and Dimity Hall collaborate with Lane to rousing effect.
Thomas Dunhill (1877-1946), while a student at the Royal College of Music studied with Charles Villiers Stanford, 1897-1901. Strongly committed to chamber music, Dunhill composed, beginning in 1898, a series of quintets for various ensembles and he helped establish chamber London music concerts at the Queen’s Small Hall, Steinway Hall, and Bechstein Hall. His later orchestral works fell into the category of light music, often played by Dan Godfrey’s Bournemouth Municipal Orchestra but now having fallen into obscurity.
The Piano Quintet in C Minor (1904) follows Stanford’s conservative strictures in composition, and it projects what critic Marion Scott calls a “companionable, healthy, and English” character. The opening Allegro moderato sets, in 11 measures, the cello and piano in a throaty melody soon picked up by the tutti. The ensemble takes Dunhill’s repeat, and we bask in the hazy colors a second time. Lane himself has brief but piquant episodes in hues that might remind some auditors of Loeffler, especially when he accompanies the viola. Lane has these figures late in the recapitulation, and the first movement comes to a serene conclusion, pp and tranquillo.
Dunhill’s second movement, a scherzo: Vivace assai, con fuoco, has the strings insist on a jaunty rhythmic figure in syncopation that soon yields twice to a gentle trio section, much in the manner of Schumann. Viola and violin caress the tune over plucked bass figures and Lane’s gentle arpeggios. The da capo truly urges the “with fire” designation. A moving piano trio – violin, viola, and piano – opens the lengthy Elegie, the viola part prominent to a degree that suggests to annotator Lewis Foreman the influence of virtuoso Lionel Tertis. Proceeding Andante, the music provides an affecting theme and variations that displays Dunhill’s capacities for expressive colors. An impassioned climax precedes the quiet coda.
Dunhill marks his last movement Allegro con brio – Prestissimo, opening with another impassioned con fuoco. This introductory material presages a four-square tune in viola and cello in figures akin to Mendelssohn or Arthur Sullivan. Another, transparent tune emerges, whose piano accompaniment appears in arpeggios, quasi arpa, in the spirit of a folk ballad. Dunhill soon reveals his contrapuntal skills, combining two tunes with the energetic, rising opening flourish. The sonority resembles much of Schumann’s adept skills in chamber work, and so Dunhill has a last movement whose craft fuses his capacity for song with a striking gift for drama.
Recording Producer Jeremy Hayes has maintained a fine balance between Lane’s Steinway and the often inflamed Goldner strings.