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Hyperion Records

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The Bonaventure Pine (1893) by Paul Signac (1863-1935)
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas / Gift of Audrey Jones Beck / Bridgeman Art Library, London
Track(s) taken from CDA68036
Recording details: May 2013
Potton Hall, Dunwich, Suffolk, United Kingdom
Produced by Jeremy Hayes
Engineered by Ben Connellan
Release date: April 2014
Total duration: 40 minutes 13 seconds

'It would be hard to imagine a more persuasive or compelling performance of Pierné's Piano Quintet than this one from the all-Australian line-up of the Goldner Quartet and Piers Lane … the Allegro has litheness, warmth and a constantly engaging sense of musical argument that prompts the question: why isn’t this much more frequently played? … Vierne's String Quartet is full of wonderfully effective writing. The inner movements are particularly impressive: a febrile Intermezzo (airily despatched here) and an austerely beautiful slow movement. With expert notes from Roger Nichols, this is a fascinating and eminently worthwhile addition to the catalogue' (Gramophone) » More

'Piers Lane joins the fun for Pierné’s Piano Quintet. Dating from the latter years of World War One, it encapsulates much of the spirit of the Belle Époque, but also looks forward to the rhythmic drive of the 1920s. Echoes of Franck are apparent, especially in the final movements remembrances of earlier themes and methods of cranking up the tension. Resonances of contemporaries such as Debussy, Ravel, Dukas and Stravinsky can also be heard, notably in the central ‘Zortzico’, and with the advocacy of this finely nuanced performance, Pierné’s rhythmic and timbral invention shine through' (BBC Music Magazine) » More

'Louis Vierne (1870-1937) is by no means obscure, but his contemporary Gabriel Pierné (1863-1937) is one of those composers who continues to occupy specialist territory. His substantial Piano Quintet … presents a fascinating synthesis of ripe late 19th-century romantic sensibility and the new ideas of texture and harmony emerging in the early years of the 20th century … in the Vierne Quartet of 1894, the Goldners pitch their playing perceptively, pointing to the influences of Franck and Mendelssohn. There is discipline in this music, but also a warmth of spirit that finds an outlet in the third movement, and which the Goldners interpret with stylish sensitivity—a characteristic, indeed, of the whole disc' (The Daily Telegraph) » More

'The Goldner weigh every chord to perfection, and make the textures utterly transparent, while their partnership with Lane in the quintet is exemplary' (The Guardian) » More

'Pierné composed a generous amount of chamber music, and one of the jewels among them is the Piano Quintet presented here … I find it difficult to understand why this music is not performed and recorded more frequently, because it is no less attractive than Fauré’s Piano Quartets and Piano Quintets … [Vierne's] String Quartet, like Pierné’s work, has been unfairly neglected, and it would be nice if Debussy's and Ravel’s quartets occasionally invited it out for a stroll … Recommended' (International Record Review) » More

'La nouvelle venue se place sur un autre plan : incitée peut-être par l’indication « Très lointain » qui ouvre le deuxième mouvement, elle s'adresse aux yeux de l’imagination plus qu’aux élans du cœur. Cette lecture plus évocatrice qu'affective doit beaucoup à la gamme de nuances et au jeu de pédale de Piers Lane : à sa finesse, à ses fortissimos jamais durs et à l’interaction qu’il établit, non seulement avec le quatuor comme un groupe, mais avec chacun de ses membres, réalisant à la perfection l’intention de l'œuvre … la belle palette tamisée nous fait espérer que ces cinq-là en continueront l'exploration avec les sublimes Quintette de Vierne et Trio de Pierné' (Diapason, France) » More

Piano Quintet in E minor, Op 41
1916; first performed at the Société nationale in Paris on 22 February 1919, the composer at the keyboard; dedicated to Gabriel Fauré

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Pierné's chamber music, making up about a quarter of his total output, belongs to two distinct periods: 1882–1900 and 1916–1936. The first of these ended with his Violin Sonata, dedicated to Jacques Thibaud with whom he often played it. The Piano Quintet in E minor began the second period, and was premiered at the Société nationale on 22 February 1919 with the composer at the keyboard. The work is dedicated to Gabriel Fauré.

In general, the twin influences of Massenet and Franck combine happily in Pierné’s music, the grace and melodic ease of the former being given substance by the contrapuntal tendencies of the latter. But the opening of this Quintet owes nothing to either of them. Instead, an insistently rotating four-note ostinato looks forward to the 1920s when such ostinatos became all the rage, not least under the influence of Stravinsky. Over this repeated figure floats a curious iambic rhythm, imparting if anything a sense of loss or nostalgia, as in Debussy’s Prélude Des pas sur la neige. Certainly this opening is nothing like the ‘solid’ start one expects from a forty-minute chamber work. But suddenly, impelled by Franckian piano chords, the music takes wing in a climax on octave strings, before receding again. The central theme of the movement is built more on rhythm than anything, with a triplet followed by dotted notes. For much of the time all five instruments are playing, until the four-note ostinato returns, and then the iambic tag, as the music finally sinks to rest.

Pierné had already experimented in 1910 with the Basque dance the ‘zortzico’ in his incidental music to Pierre Loti’s play Ramuntcho about Basque smugglers (Pierné’s conducting of the overture, available on YouTube, gives some idea of his tight rhythmic control). The dance has five beats in a bar, involving dotted rhythms (tum-tum-ti-tum-ti), and Ravel had used a version of it, with three beats added on the end, in the first movement of his Piano Trio of 1915. Pierné begins by alternating the 5/8 of the zortzico with standard 4/8 bars, as though breaking us in gently. But the zortzico tune, when it does come, is a delightful exercise in the popular vein—maybe even an original Basque tune, though no one has identified it as yet. Mostly the movement consists of variations on this tune in different keys and with different harmonies, but a secondary idea does emerge in the shape of a rising scale, complementing the falling pattern of the zortzico. Finally Pierné combines the two in the unusual metre of 20/8, before the music once more sinks to rest, in a long haze of D flat major.

In the slow introduction to the finale, Pierné tips his hat respectfully to Franck by revisiting tunes and rhythms from the previous two movements, starting with that of the zortzico. With increasing contrapuntal complexity comes an increase in speed, until the dam breaks—or if you prefer, the clouds disperse and a sunny E major tune emerges, Allegro vivo ed agitato. Franckian modulations carry all before them, culminating in a new theme (though again based on dotted rhythms) accompanied by trumpet-like chords on the piano. From here, all is development, interrupted by a couple of relatively peaceful oases. Dotted rhyhms continue to predominate, though the height of complexity is reached when the zortzico’s 5/8 is combined with both a 4/8 and a 3/8. The race to the end is exhilarating and triumphant.

from notes by Roger Nichols © 2014

Other albums featuring this work
'Hyperion monthly sampler – April 2014' (HYP201404)
Hyperion monthly sampler – April 2014
MP3 £0.00FLAC £0.00ALAC £0.00 FREE DOWNLOAD HYP201404  Download-only monthly sampler  
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