Hahn, Vierne

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Hahn,Vierne
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Piano Quintet in F sharp minor
PERFORMER: Stephen Coombs (piano); Chilingirian Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67258
The draw may be Reynaldo Hahn, but the must-hear is Vierne’s Quintet: not quite a forgotten masterpiece, more an unknown one. From a Franck-like introduction, it takes off into a sustained exploration of uneasy power and intense peaks that may shock listeners who know only his organ music. Its distinctive material, heart-on-sleeve melodies and edgy, agitated figures, is made all of a piece by its unrelenting treatment and restless harmonic style. Dramatic side-steps at the top of climaxes, harrowing withdrawals into moods of darkness, and a finale of highly original character like a dance of death: it adds up to an experience of unexpected compulsion.

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Hahn’s Quintet is a fluent and friendly piece, a throwback to the heyday of Saint-Saëns and early

Fauré half a century on, which zips off at a lightweight agitato and turns meltingly melodic at every opportunity. The finale’s theme has a neat mock-Baroque cadence – very Twenties, and the only thing about the work that is – but is swept aside by an unexpected accumulation of weight, rather like the corresponding movement in Franck’s Violin Sonata.

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The players, ferociously concentrated and demonstrative in Vierne, find just the right delicate touch here. In short, a Hyperion classic, finely recorded by the veteran team of Compton and Faulkner.