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Hyperion Records

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The Rose Garden by Robert Atkinson (1863-1896)
Fine Art Photographic Library, London
Track(s) taken from CDA67590
Recording details: January 2007
Henry Wood Hall, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Andrew Keener
Engineered by Simon Eadon
Release date: October 2007
Total duration: 26 minutes 19 seconds

'This wonderful Hyperion collection featuring The Nash Ensemble at its golden-toned and responsive best … Coleridge-Taylor's Op 10 emerges as a quite astonishingly mature achievement … backed up by a blemish-free production from the Keener/Eadon team and attractively presented, this has to be one of the most engaging releases I've heard all year' (Gramophone)

'This splendid disc of early chamber music goes a long way to explain [Coleridge-Taylor's] charisma. The Piano Quintet … is a superbly characterful work with an especially original finale. And the Clarinet Quintet … 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 … the Nash Ensemble 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) in affectionate performances that revel in Coleridge-Taylor's idiomatic and challenging writing. The recording is warm but texturally crystal-clear. Highly recommended' (BBC Music Magazine)

'There is enough mastery here and in the later Ballade for violin and piano to make highly rewarding listening. The Nash Ensemble's performances, as one would expect, are devoted and full of insight' (The Daily Telegraph)

'The composer's lyrical gift, rhythmic energy, and skilful use of colour and harmony are the work of a master … the Nash Ensemble does great justice to this music, with polished yet vigorous playing and superb musicianship' (American Record Guide)

'Coleridge-Taylor's creative light would seem to be firmly in the ascendant … the Nash Ensemble has maintained such an astonishingly high level of interpretative and technical expertise down the years that it is easy to become complacent. Yet even by its standards this is an exceptional recording, with Ian Brown excelling himself with playing of the utmost sensitivity and imagination. High honours also go to violinist Marianne Thorsen who plays the 13-minute Ballade with a radiant glow and passion which have one hanging onto her every note … enhanced by one of the most natural-sounding recordings that even Andrew Keener and Simon Eadon have ever produced, this is a must for all lovers of late-Romantic chamber music' (International Record Review)

'[Piano Quintet in G minor] is well-crafted, with piquant harmonies (the pianist, not incidentally, is the outstanding Ian Brown who brings added class to everything he touches) … the Clarinet Quintet in F sharp minor commands the listener's full attention. Richard Holsford, the eloquent soloist, is heard at his best in the beautiful second-movement Larghetto' (Classic FM Magazine)

'Suave musicianship and sonic warmth … the Nash Ensemble offers a vital and intellectually stimulating accounts of these rarities and their devotion repays the listener’s curiosity many times over. The playing is fresh and vibrant, not to mention poised and erudite … not as much as a single note will disappoint' (Fanfare, USA)

'Le Nash Ensemble met beaucoup d’ardeur à défendre cette très belle musique, qui n’avait pour l’instant jamais fait l’objet d’enregistrements connus. La sonorité est ronde et pleine, le travail effectué sur la partition intelligent. Ce disque ne dépareillera aucune collection et peut même constituer la première pièce de la discographie d’un amateur de musique de chambre en herbe. Autrement dit, il ne s’agit pas de bouder son plaisir' (Classiqueinfo-disque.com)

Piano Quintet in G minor, Op 1
composer
first performed on 9 October 1893 in Croydon

Allegro con moto  [8'48]
Larghetto  [7'45]
Scherzo  [4'30]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
The Piano Quintet received its first public performance in Croydon on 9 October 1893 in a concert devoted entirely to Coleridge-Taylor’s works. After this premiere, it is probable that the Piano Quintet was not played again for more than a century. Conscious that it contained some first-rate material which might languish in oblivion, Coleridge-Taylor reused two of its themes: the second subject of the first movement forms an episode of the African Dance Op 58 No 3, for violin and piano (1904); and the trio of the Scherzo reappears in the ‘Valse de la Reine’, the third in the sequence of Characteristic Waltzes Op 22 for orchestra (1898).

Coleridge-Taylor freely acknowledged his favourite composer to be Dvorák, who was in turn a devotee of Schubert, whose inexhaustible spontaneity Coleridge-Taylor almost matched. The influence of both these composers is apparent the Quintet; more impressively, individual characteristics of Coleridge-Taylor’s mature style are already apparent: attractive and original melodies, strong rhythms and irregular phrase-lengths, and an ear sensitive to variety in tone-colour and dynamics are all in evidence, as are a gift for piquant harmony and bold key-changes allied to a sure grasp of structure. That the Piano Quintet was composed by an eighteen-year-old is remarkable. Understandably, the critic of the Croydon Advertiser used the word ‘astonishing’ in his review of the 1893 concert.

The first movement has an assertive principal subject played by all the strings in octaves with an almost orchestral sonority; the second subject, in the relative major key of B flat, is introduced by the piano and while its shape and apparent simplicity might be Schubertian (as is its momentary diversion to C flat major), it represents an early flowering of Coleridge-Taylor’s own exceptional melodic talent.

The Larghetto, in E flat major, begins serenely with a reflective cello solo gently woven around by languid piano tracery; with the entry of the other strings the tonality hovers beguilingly between the home key of E flat major, G major, and E major. A forceful, rhetorical episode emerges, the strings in octaves declaiming powerful incantations over widely leaping sforzando chords in the piano. The opening mood of tranquillity is restored in the coda and extended by means of a long tonic pedal supporting delicate piano arabesques and sustained string chords.

The first half of the Scherzo has a driving energy which all but overspills in the second half: chains of syncopations, alarming (but perfectly controlled) tonal swerves, contrapuntal forays which are interrupted before they have a chance to make progress, and juxtapositions of extreme dynamics leave one grateful for the respite offered by the trio.

The mood of the finale is initially much darker than those of the earlier movements: textures are more spare and lines more angular. The second subject has a positively sinister aspect: its dominant minor mode, its instrumentation (viola leading, thick chords in the lower registers of the piano, seemingly disembodied violin scales)—even the harmony has an eerie, unsettling quality. After the exposition repeat, perhaps concerned that the atmosphere has become too oppressive, the composer suddenly effects a transformation to something altogether sunnier: instead of a development section he gives us a perky fugato setting off in D major, the subject of which is a variant of the trio melody from the third movement—an early example of his gift for clever thematic metamorphosis.

The recapitulation is telescoped, the composer dispensing with that baleful second subject until the coda, where it is briefly developed as the basis of an exciting ‘alla breve’ final run-in which resolves triumphantly in the major mode.

from notes by Lionel Harrison © 2007

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