Dvořák Piano Quartet, Quintet & Songs my Mother Taught Me
Dvořák’s great second Piano Quintet of 1887 grew out of an unsuccessful attempt to revise a much earlier work. Dvoπák composed the new quintet in just over six weeks, having wrestled with his first Piano Quintet for months. It displays spontaneity throughout, but no signs of haste: its outer movements have appealing breadth, the slow movement is one of his most lyrical, and the trio of the scherzo, with its energetic dance rhythms, is one of his most radiant inspirations. Though less often heard, the E flat Piano Quartet is similarly lyrical, and has arresting writing for strings and piano.
There are plenty of fine performances of the Quintet, including the Gaudier Ensemble’s recital, but this new recording rates highly among them. The Schubert Ensemble are not only adept at delivering the melodic side without an ounce of sentimentality, they show a strong appreciation of the inherent drama that energises these works, particularly in the Piano Quartet; I have rarely encountered a more satisfying performance of its first movement, and the depth the players bring to the Lento is remarkable. As a whole these excellently-recorded performances lead a well-populated field.