Dvorak: Piano Quintet, Op. 81; Bagatelles

LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Piano Quintet, Op. 81; Bagatelles
PERFORMER: Ensemble Explorations Frank Braley (piano, harmonium
CATALOGUE NO: Harmonia Mundi HMC 901880
Dvorák’s great Piano Quintet is the climax of a development begun with his lovely early B flat Piano Trio. Many of the Quintet’s formal aspects and its melodic generosity are to be found in embryonic form in the Trio. After the Quintet, Dvoπák’s approach to chamber music became more experimental in his Second Piano Quartet and the Dumky Trio. The use of a period Steinway, built in 1874 (13 years before the Quintet was composed), certainly adds timbral interest. Dvorák was more of a Bösendorfer man, but this Steinway has a rich, almost throaty quality with only a touch of hardness in the upper register. The performance of the Bagatelles is completely enjoyable, not so the Quintet. The opening cello solo sets a decidedly wayward tone. The passages of broader lyricism have grandeur, but the faster sections emerge as hectoring rather than passionate. The lovely slow movement also suffers from a rather casual approach to the links between sections. Things take a very different turn in the Scherz with playing of superb lightness, and the finale has infectious energy tempered by a pleasing inward quality in the reflective passages before the final rush to the double bar. Clearly there are things to enjoy in this well recorded issue, but it does not approach theGaudier Ensemble’s magnificent reading,