WORKS: String Trio in G (Unfinished); Piano Quintet in C minor
PERFORMER: St Petersburg Chamber Players
CATALOGUE NO: GMCD 7179
What an enterprising issue this is: two rarities from Borodin and Dvorák’s magnificent, though shamefully neglected, Second Piano Quartet. Borodin’s early G major Trio – the second of two – has a retrospective air: though early Romantic in demeanour, hints of Mozart and Beethoven emerge from time to time. The St Petersburg Chamber Players perform this slight work with conviction; the only regret about their rendition is their adopting an arrangement for violin, viola and cello, rather than the original scoring for two violins and cello.
Borodin’s lovely Piano Quintet fares excellently in their hands: the folk-inflected first movement and Scherzo are delightful, and the broadly structured finale (surely intended as the first movement) emerges strongly. Their full-blooded, somewhat soloistic approach suits Dvorák’s far subtler Piano Quartet much less well. There are powerful aspects to their performance – not least the impetus they generate towards the end of the first movement, but too often they rely on fine, high-profile playing at the expense of ensemble and the chance to look into the heart of this richly expressive work; the slow movement is particularly disappointing from this point of view, nor is it helped by a rather harsh recorded piano sound. Jan Smaczny