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
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.