Arensky & Taneyev Piano Quintets: Piers Lane & Goldner Piano Quintet

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COMPOSERS: Arensky,Taneyev
LABELS: Hyperion
ALBUM TITLE: Arensky & Taneyev: Piano Quintets
WORKS: Arensky: Piano Quintet in D, Op. 51; Taneyev: Piano Quintet in G minor, Op. 30
PERFORMER: Piers Lane, Goldner String Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67965

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Both these works have been recorded several times, with Martha Argerich releasing them on separate albums in her Lugano series. That they remain hardly known by most music lovers is a pity, especially given the genial and ear-catching quality of the Arensky.

Particularly characteristic is the second movement’s set of variations on a poignant theme, an ancient French wedding song which sounds almost as if it could be Tchaikovsky. Then follows an enchanting Scherzo, a sun-filled and carefree dance in which pianist Piers Lane’s light-fingered ascents and rapid scalic plunges are perfectly complemented by the Goldners’ feather-light string playing. The only disappointment is the all too sketchy finale, its ‘in modo antico’ opening followed by a recap of the first movement’s theme – all in less than three-and-a-half minutes.

Taneyev’s Quintet, lasting just short of 45 minutes, justifies its length with a sure sense of structure, inventive instrumental colour and contrapuntal skill. Still, I’m not sure it works as the disc’s opening item: it’s a weighty work, not helped by this rather straight performance. There is more charisma in the excellent account by Mikhail Pletnev and a dream team of string players (on DG 477 5419), who reveal the drama of this epic work.

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Daniel Jaffé