Schnittke: Piano Trio; Piano Quintet

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Schnittke
LABELS: ASV Quicksilva
WORKS: Piano Trio; Piano Quintet
PERFORMER: Barbican Piano Trio; Jan Peter Schmolck (violin), James Boyd (viola)
CATALOGUE NO: CD QS 6251
Alfred Schnittke’s Piano Quintet seems to have acquired the status of a modern classic, judging at least from the number of recordings now available. So, in making this disc, the Barbican Piano Trio and additions faced tough opposition, and no doubt they appraised themselves of the several competing versions before undertaking this new release.

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The result, it is good to report, is fresh and appealing. Their sound has a spontaneity that lends the impression of hearing an actual performance rather than something studio-made. It could hardly be expected that their version would have the edge in Russian melancholy, which can be readily found elsewhere. It’s surely enough that the work is played as a sonata, or suite, for five musicians, with attention to detail and a sense of the music’s evolving from its past into its future at the heart of the reading.

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In the Piano Trio, a revamp by Schnittke himself of his earlier String Trio, new light is shed on old textures, giving something of a shock to admirers of his earlier and very fine chamber score, but insights, too. Harmonies become more acidulous, and the cunningly dovetailed thematic working sounds no less cogent than in the original. Nicholas Williams