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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

WORKS: Piano Quintets Nos 1 & 2
PERFORMER: Gottlieb Wallisch (piano); Ensõ Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: 8.570572


Relatively few composers have had such an auspicious debut as the Hungarian Ernö Dohnányi. His first opus, Piano Quintet No. 1, written at the age of 18, is an astonishingly assured work, with strongly defined thematic ideas and a masterly handling of the chamber music medium that stands very much in the great Austro-German Romantic tradition. Brahms, one of the first important musicians to recognise its qualities, arranged a prestigious performance in Vienna in 1895, thereby helping to launch Dohnányi’s international career. Gottlieb Wallisch and the Ensõ Quartet deliver a highly charged account. They relish the youthful impetuosity of its opening Allegro, the playful and ebullient character of the Scherzo and the Schumannesque Finale as well as the warm-hearted lyricism of the Adagio.

Their performance of the much darker and more harmonically advanced Quintet No. 2 of 1914 is also effective, especially in the whimsical Intermezzo and the sombre Finale. I was somewhat less convinced, though, by the first movement where the opening seems to lack the requisite sense of mystery and foreboding and the textures become rather cloudy in the central climax. The rival account from the Schubert Ensemble on Helios is far more satisfying, and their release generously combines the two Quintets with an exhilarating performance of the Serenade for String Trio.


Erik Levi