Farrenc: Piano Quintet in A minor, Op. 30; Piano Quintet in E, Op. 31

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COMPOSERS: Farrenc
LABELS: ASV
WORKS: Piano Quintet in A minor, Op. 30; Piano Quintet in E, Op. 31
PERFORMER: Schubert Ensemble of London
CATALOGUE NO: CD DCA 1122
As a fine pianist, as an influential teacher, and as the only woman to hold a permanent professorial post

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at the Paris Conservatoire in the whole of the 19th century, Louise Farrenc can be certain of a place in comprehensive musical dictionaries. As a composer who earned praise from Schumann, Joachim and Berlioz, she clearly ought to be heard – though on the evidence of these two piano quintets, we shouldn’t expect to find another Fanny Mendelssohn or Clara Schumann. The influences of Haydn and Beethoven are present but well-digested, and both works show a melodic grace which sometimes recalls Weber and Mendelssohn – the slow movement of the Second Quintet has a dignified lyrical charm, and Farrenc’s introduction of the odd gentle harmonic surprise keeps the ear from wandering. In terms of

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formal logic you can’t fault her. But despite all these qualities – brought out elegantly, if not with burning intensity, by the members of the Schubert Ensemble of London – I can’t help finding these pieces on the whole pretty unadventurous. What Schumann called the ‘subtle aroma of Romanticism’ that ‘hovers over’ these works, seems to have dissipated with time. Stephen Johnson