Venables: Piano Quintet, Op. 27

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COMPOSERS: Venables
LABELS: Somm
WORKS: Piano Quintet, Op. 27; Three Pieces for Violin and Piano, Op. 11; Elegy for Cello and Piano, Op. 2; Soliloquy for Viola and Piano, Op. 26; Poem for Cello and Piano, Op. 29
PERFORMER: Mark Bebbington, Graham J Lloyd (piano); Coull Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: SOMMCD 0101

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Ian Venables is a curiosity, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Born in 1955, he composes in a style that for many would appear hopelessly outdated; one might guess the works on this CD to have been written by a pupil, say, of Stanford – albeit
a talented pupil. Yet he carries this off without the results possessing any sense of pastiche. His music is entirely his own expression and, for want of a better word, sincere.

It’s also often very accomplished. The biggest work here, the 1995 Piano Quintet, is notable for the solidity of the writing, with some slight echoes of Shostakovich in the opening movement’s soundworld and a touch of Finzi’s harmonic motion in the second. A tendency towards an over-density of texture is held in check in the first two movements but becomes more intrusive in the finale, where the recall of earlier thematic material is the work’s least successful gesture.

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His genuine lyrical gift is apparent in the finely crafted Three Pieces for Violin and Piano (1986), which are beautifully realised here. But the performances are impressive throughout, capturing nicely that characteristic vein of melancholy running through the Soliloquy for Viola and Piano (1994) and the Poem for Cello and Piano (1997). George Hall