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Hyperion Records

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Shades of Night by Nesta Jennings Campbell (d1951)
Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museums, Gloucestershire / Bridgeman Art Library, London
Track(s) taken from CDA67638
Recording details: February 2007
Menuhin Hall, Yehudi Menuhin School, Stoke d'Abernon, Cobham, Surrey, United Kingdom
Produced by Amanda Hurton
Engineered by Ben Connellan
Release date: November 2007
Total duration: 6 minutes 36 seconds

'A fabulous CD this, easily the best recording of Bloch's chamber music I've heard in years … the first Quintet, a product of the early 1920s, seems to combine the acerbic drive of middle-period Bartók with the kind of veiled sensuality one associates more with Chausson or Fauré. Bloch's use of quarter-tones, aimed at intensifying the work's already heightened emotional atmosphere, requires careful handling, and the Goldner Quartet make them sound both musically striking and entirely natural. If you need a sampling-point, try the finale's opening, where the sense of urgency will hold you riveted … the Quintet's quiet coda is rapturously beautiful and the blending of voices between Piers Lane and the Goldners simply could not be bettered … the music is truly wonderful, the playing entirely sympathetic and the sound perfectly balanced' (Gramophone)

'This new beautifully balanced recording in which Piers Lane partners the Australian-based Goldner Quartet has the edge in almost every respect … in the First Quintet Lane and the Goldners manage to communicate the urgency and immediacy of Bloch's musical argument with far greater fervour than their Czech colleagues on the Praga Digitalis release … most attractive are the three Paysages, depicting landscapes as disparate as the frozen Arctic wastes, the slopes of the Alps and the energetic exotic rhythms of the South Pacific islands in vivid colours' (BBC Music Magazine)

'The performances are superb! The Goldners and pianist Lane play with complete technical command and an emotional commitment to the works' (American Record Guide)

'This Hyperion release is not only perfectly compiled … but also brings, with the opening of the First Piano Quintet, music that is particularly striking and which also becomes compulsive … the middle movement is an atmospheric Andante mistico, melodic and spacious, strangely beautiful and full of Eastern promise, exotic and ethereal, the writing skilful and imaginative … a powerful and enveloping whole that is both intoxicating yet underpinned with logic … Piers Lane (a sensitive chamber music player whose concerto-soloist confidence and personality is a boon) and the Goldner String Quartet (a group of real distinction) give superb performances, deeply committed, vividly declaring without sacrificing good balance, attention to detail and a wide dynamic range, qualities brought forth by the excellent recording' (International Record Review)

'[Piano Quintet No 1] ranks among the finest in the genre … a work of astonishing immediacy, at once lyrical and aggressive, that takes you on a lurching emotional journey before achieving stability in the most serene C major imaginable … the performances, by the Goldner String Quartet and pianist Piers Lane, are tremendously authoritative in their combination of technical daring and expressive power' (The Guardian)

'In his two finely crafted piano quintets, we find sonata form mingling with quarter-tones and an identifiably Jewish lyricism: very engaging, especially in these performances from Lane and the Goldner String Quartet' (Financial Times)

'Start with the Andante mistico of the First Quintet and you'll discover real intensity in expression and music that borders on the religious in its devoted strength … presented with such vigour and playful ease, particularly by Piers Lane … all essential listening, but the musically most rewarding works here are without doubt the two piano quintets, which I will return to time and time again, not least for the brilliant Piers Lane' (Pianist)

Paysages
composer
8-13 December 1923; first performed in Florida by the Flonzaley Quartet in February 1924; dedicated to Carl Engel

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Depiction of the natural world is again the focus in Paysages (Landscapes), but here the geographical locations of each of the three contrasting movements are clearly delineated: the frozen wastes of the Arctic, the lush vegetation of the Alpine landscape, and the pulsating energy of life as lived in the islands of the South Pacific.

Ever since his youth, Bloch had been fascinated by the ‘exotic’. For example, as a child he had read legends about the Incas that made an indelible impression upon him, according to his own testimony. When, in his early twenties, he came to know the celebrated music critic Robert Godet, he was spellbound by the older man’s personal descriptions of Java, Sumatra and Borneo. When preparing lectures for the Geneva Conservatoire between 1911 and 1916, he researched collections of traditional music from Africa and the Arctic regions. Bloch never had the opportunity to visit such places, and this caused him much frustration and regret. However, following his arrival in New York in 1916, he was able to travel extensively throughout the New World, and gradually developed a strong affinity for Native American cultures from every part of the continent. All of these—as well as the more familiar Jewish influences—inspired Bloch; and as a result he incorporated into his compositions motifs, melodies, rhythms and textures typical of these widely separated ethnicities.

North (Moderato molto), the first movement of Paysages, was inspired by Robert Flaherty’s film about Eskimo life, Nanook of the North. Bloch was overwhelmed by the vivid images portrayed—to the extent that he was unable to sleep after the showing. In one hour, in the middle of the night, he completed North. This has been described by one commentator as ‘a study in pianissimo’, descriptive of the bleakness and desolation of icy wastes. Against a backdrop of frequently repeating quavers in groups of four and three respectively, marked ‘without expression’ at the beginning (the time-signature of this movement is mainly 7/8), motifs comprising oscillating semitones or augmented seconds are occasionally interrupted by phrases covering much wider intervals.

Switzerland, the country of Bloch’s birth, was a further source of inspiration to the composer; and again, motifs from the Swiss folk repertoire find their way into many of his works, including the middle movement of Paysages: Alpestre (Allegretto). This pastoral essay is altogether warmer and more lyrical. There are four main ideas: the opening melody on viola that swoops low then high, rather as a bird in flight; a tighter motif of narrow compass that suggests the Lydian mode, also introduced by viola; an ornamented phrase on the first violin; and a passage marked misterioso played by all four instruments.

The finale is entitled Tongataboo (Allegro) and evokes the pounding dance and percussion traditions of the island of Tongatapu in the Tongan archipelago. There are striking rhythmical similarities here with the finale of the Piano Quintet No 1. Apart from several secondary motifs, there is one prominent theme that first appears on the first violin soon after the beginning, and is then repeated throughout the movement. This work was dedicated ‘to my dear friend Carl Engel’, the American musicologist (1883–1944).

from notes by Alexander Knapp © 2007

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