D’Erlanger • Dunhill
D’Erlanger: Piano Quintet; Dunhill: Piano Quintet in C minor, Op. 20
Piers Lane (piano); Goldner String Quartet
Hyperion CDA68296 73:14 mins
Reporting in 1902 on a London concert entirely devoted to the music of composer and millionaire banker Frederic d’Erlanger (1866-1943), the Athenaeum magazine weighed up this cosmopolitan figure’s virtues and vices: superficial melodies weakly developed, yet music also pleasant and refined. The assessment still holds over a century later, with the possible added appeal of seemingly conveying in sound AE Housman’s ‘land of lost content’, the leisurely Edwardian paradise stamped out by the First World War. Simple, sometimes chunky in texture, d’Erlanger’s Piano Quintet of 1901 is at its pleasing best in the central, less portentous two movements.
The airy attractions of light music, meanwhile, regularly break with benefit into the Stanford-esque flow of the album’s other offering, the 1904 Piano Quintet of Thomas Dunhill (1877-1946). The work also offers the additional benefit of a composer completely at ease writing for chamber forces, elegantly balancing and varying textures. D’Erlanger, by contrast, often seems content to glue the instrumentalists together in unison lines, cross fingers and hope for the best.
As expected, the all-Australian team of Piers Lane and the Goldner String Quartet dig out these rarities with the necessary love and respect, and show that works don’t have to be gold-plated masterpieces to offer rewarding listening. Long ago, Marion Scott wrote of Dunhill’s chamber music as being ‘as companionable, healthy and English as the South Downs on a sunny day’. I think she’s right. But before buying, as a precaution, perhaps you should just check the weather forecast.