The Goldner Quartet play Bruch

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COMPOSERS: Max Bruch
LABELS: Hyperion
ALBUM TITLE: Bruch
WORKS: Piano Quintet; String Quartet No. 1; Swedish Dances, Op. 63
PERFORMER: Goldner Quartet; Piers Lane (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: Hyperion CDA 68120

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Bruch’s chamber music may lack the sheer genius of Mendelssohn, Schumann or Brahms, yet it is expertly written, eloquently structured and intuitively sustains the genre’s essential intimacy of tone. The First Quartet, an early work dating from the mid-1850s, takes its lead from middle-period Beethoven – the lyrico-dramatic concision of the Harp and Serioso Quartets rather than the temporal expansion of the first two Razumovskys – and is played to the hilt by the Goldner Quartet. They relish the music’s C minor sturm und drang with infectious bravado, even if their impassioned fluency can’t quite disguise the fact that there isn’t a single truly memorable idea along the way.

The quartet’s gifted leader Dene Olding joins forces with Piers Lane in a rousing performance of the violin-and-piano Swedish Dances. Technically flamboyant at times – tellingly, Joseph Joachim had a hand in the editing – and mellifluously scored, they ultimately lack the melodic distinction of the twin Hungarian and Slavonic exemplars of Brahms and Dvoπák. Dating from the late 1880s, the Piano Quintet is another score whose creative facility is more striking than its actual musical material. Lane and the Goldners give it their all and the engineering is both truthful and well-balanced.

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Julian Haylock