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

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WORKS: Piano Quintet in A minor, Op. 30; Piano Quintet in E, Op. 31
PERFORMER: Schubert Ensemble of London
As a fine pianist, as an influential teacher, and as the only woman to hold a permanent professorial post


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


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