Beach • Elgar
Beach: Piano Quintet in F sharp minor, Op. 67; Elgar: Piano Quintet in A minor, Op. 84
Garrick Ohlsson (piano); Takács Quartet
Hyperion CDA68295 63:36 mins
This excellent release celebrates two glorious pieces for piano quintet with performances of unabashed élan. The Takács Quartet are renowned for the warmth and drama of their playing and could not be a better fit for such full-blooded works, while Ohlsson, a noted Chopin exponent, proves a similarly fine match in this generous, lyrical interpretation.
Amy Beach was one of the earliest American composers to rise to prominence without European conservatory training and her Gaelic Symphony (1896) was the first symphony by an American woman to be composed, performed and published. Beach’s Piano Quintet of 1907 is a work of luscious neo-Romanticism which rings with subtle echoes of the Brahms Piano Quintet. In this recording, the ensemble brings an extraordinary range and depth of sound to Beach’s closely-worked score. The dream-like slow movement, with its sombre muted strings, is a particular highlight and the subtle delicacy of this performance is almost unbearably moving, while the ensemble balances a real sense of drama alongside sparkling clarity in the work’s restless finale.
Elgar’s Piano Quintet is one of the masterpieces of the genre, by turns mysterious, affecting and joyful. Ohlsson and the Takács Quartet are vividly alert to the work’s sense of story, particularly to the hints of the supernatural in the ‘wonderful weird beginning’, as Lady Elgar described the quintet’s very opening. This is a performance every bit as imaginative and expressive as Elgar’s remarkable score, rich in contrast and daring but never overblown and always precise. With excellent recording quality throughout, this is in every respect an outstanding disc.