WORKS: Piano Quintet in E flat, Op. 44. Piano Quintet in F minor, Op. 34
PERFORMER: Paul Komen (piano) Rubio String Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: GLO 5177
These are unremarkable versions of the Brahms and Schumann Quintets from pianist Paul Komen and the Rubio String Quartet. The Rubio created a far stronger impression in the first two instalments of its current Shostakovich cycle for Globe than it does here. Paul Komen’s former offerings, meanwhile, gave notice of a dedicated artist, whose orderly pianism was always safe rather than daring or provocative, and that view is certainly sustained throughout these new performances.
The Schumann Quintet gets off to a promising start, only to dissipate most of its early impetus during bland string exchanges in the second group of the Allegro brillante. The measured tread of the slow movement’s pleading march bespeaks miscalculated grace and comeliness here; there’s little angst about the viola’s ominous warnings, though Komen’s energetic way with the scherzo is more pleasing. The finale also disappoints, with a fugue that’s too reticently argued to convince when the quintet’s first theme returns, sounding uncomfortably like a bolted-on afterthought.
Turning to the Brahms work, bows don’t dig nearly deep enough, and Paul Komen’s contribution doesn’t manage to impart the rhetorical expressivity this searching and noble work always demands. While there’s no shortage of fine performances of these works, it’s good to be able to offer an unqualified recommendation to the outstanding budget pairing from Jeno´´ Jandó and the Kodály Quartet on Naxos. Slightly recessed sound perhaps, but expertly judged playing (Jandó is masterfully eloquent in both works) guarantees an amazing bargain. Even without the first movement exposition repeat in the Brahms, these sonorous readings seem unrivalled. Michael Jameson