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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: 18 minutes 42 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)

Piano Quintet No 2
composer
February to July 1957; commissioned by The University of California for the inauguration of the Alfred Hertz Memorial Hall of Music; first performed there by Marjorie Petray and the Griller Quartet on 15 April 1958

Animato  [4'52]
Andante  [6'00]
Allegro  [7'50]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
The Piano Quintet No 2, composed between February and July 1957, was the last piece of chamber music that Bloch wrote. He was already suffering from the colonic cancer to which he finally succumbed two years later, and had been unsure as to whether he would live long enough to complete the commission received from the Music Department of the University of California at Berkeley to contribute a work for the inauguration of the Alfred Hertz Memorial Hall of Music during the May T Morrison Festival in 1958. Bloch was characteristically determined to honour this invitation, especially as he had had a close relationship with Berkeley; and indeed, of the six composers invited to join in this project (the others being Arthur Bliss, Darius Milhaud, Roger Sessions, William O Smith, and Randall Thompson), his was the first work to be submitted. The premiere was given by Marjorie Petray and the Griller Quartet in the Hertz Hall on 15 April 1958.

The opening movement, Animato, begins energetically with a four-bar introduction leading to the first of several themes, two of which are dodecaphonic tone rows. However, as with his quarter-tones, Bloch had no intention of creating or following a ‘system’. In fact, he eschewed ‘serial’ composition, preferring, rather, to use all twelve semitones of the chromatic scale within a tonal/modal context. In this work he emphasized his individual approach by inserting into the first row two extra notes, a perfect fifth apart. Elsewhere, there are tritones in abundance, wide leaps alternating with scalic contours, motifs and harmonic progressions assembled in an ever-rising sequence, passages of gritty homophony juxtaposed with flowing polyphony, dissonances resolving into consonances, and an exploration of the entire dynamic range—tending, however, more to forte than to piano.

The slow movement, Andante, offers a further example of Bloch’s love of the mystical, the lyrical, and the pastoral. It is an air with variations, beginning in C sharp minor, replete with oscillating triplet figurations in the piano part, and mellifluous counterpoint in the strings. Shortly before the climax near the end of the movement there are two passages that are reminiscent of prominent motifs from Schelomo and the Suite hébraïque.

Following without a break is the finale, Allegro, characterized by its motoric drive. Much of the writing is similar to that of the first movement. However, after a series of cascading scales, the mood changes and the tempo broadens into the concluding Calmo section which brings the work to a close—pianissimo—in the key of E major.

from notes by Alexander Knapp © 2007

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