Piano Quintet in G minor; Ballade in C minor; Clarinet Quintet

COMPOSERS: Piano Quintet in G minor; Ballade in C minor; Clarinet Quintet
LABELS: CDA
ALBUM TITLE: Coleridge-Taylor
WORKS: Nash Ensemble
PERFORMER: Hyperion
CATALOGUE NO: 67590
The praise lavished on the young Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912) by his teachers and contemporaries sometimes seems a mite mysterious, if we judge him only by The Song of Hiawatha and the many light-music miniatures, admirably well done though those are. But this splendid disc of early chamber music goes a long way to explain his charisma. The Piano Quintet, his official Opus 1 written at the age of 17, is a superbly characterful work with an especially original finale. And the Clarinet Quintet of two years later (1895) is so assured, so obviously independent of the obvious contemporary model (the Brahms), that the much-overused term ‘masterpiece’ may not, in this instance, overstate the case. Here is a natural thinker in

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the large forms whose talents, it

may be, were dissipated and diverted elsewhere – though the much later violin Ballade, eloquently expounded by Marianne Thorsen and Ian Brown, is impressive too.

The Nash players do these deeply attractive and enjoyable works proud (the two Quintets languished unplayed for the best part of a century, and this may be the premiere recording of Op. 1),

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in affectionate performances that revel in Coleridge-Taylor’s idiomatic and challenging writing. The recording is warm but texturally crystal-clear. Highly recommended. Calum MacDonald