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Hyperion Records

Click cover art to view larger version
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: 23 minutes 9 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

String Quartet in D minor, Op 12

Allegro vivace  [7'00]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
In 1900, at the age of twenty-nine, Vierne was appointed organist of Notre-Dame by a unanimous vote, which, in a world where everyone held rigorously to their own views as to what constituted good organ playing, spoke volumes. Born in Poitiers in 1870, he was nearly blind due to congenital cataracts and it was at an institution for blind students that he came under the wing of César Franck. In 1890, the year of Franck’s death, he entered Widor’s organ class at the Paris Conservatoire and won his first prize in 1894.

In this same year Vierne wrote his String Quartet. Although the firm of Hamelle agreed to publish it, they would print only the parts, not a complete score, which was not available until the 1980s, from a different publisher. (A Symphony in A minor of 1907–08 also remained unpublished for years, reinforcing the message that organists really should stay in their loft … unless, that is, you’re a genius of the Franck or Messiaen calibre.) Vierne remained at Notre-Dame until his death in 1937, and in 1920 the young Maurice Duruflé, going to him for lessons, ‘found him to be a warm-hearted, extremely charming man … I was moved by [his] handsome face with its fine features, to which blindness lent an expression of intense inner life. His eyes, partly open, looked up from time to time towards the sky, as though they were searching there for light.’

Much of the Quartet reveals that, even at the age of twenty-four, Vierne’s approach was spiritual after the manner of Franck—if Vierne had heard the premiere of the Debussy Quartet in December 1893, there are few signs of it here. There is instead an economy of means that matches his organ playing which, according to Duruflé, was notable for its balance and ease, devoid of florid gesturing. The opening Lento is a good example: it makes its point through imitative entries à la Bach and Franckian chromaticism, but condensed into a mere seven bars that leave us wanting more. In the Allegro agitato that follows, the two main themes are presented clearly, the first abrupt, the second smooth (in the approved manner) and with a long note in the middle of each phrase, a Franckian fingerprint. After this the development treats both ideas sequentially, then interspersing the two. We should note too that the upside-down version of the first theme refers back to the slow introduction. There are no tricks in the recapitulation, the second theme now moved correctly from F major to the tonic D major, and Vierne contents himself with the briefest of codas.

The Intermezzo is quite simply one of the most delicious movements in all French chamber music. Over it hovers the spirit of Berlioz’s ‘Queen Mab Scherzo’ and of Mendelssohn’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, conjured up by pizzicatos, tremolos and dancing phrases that suddenly turn on a centime piece from one key to another. It’s hard to imagine Vierne writing it, as he did, on outsized manuscript paper using, as his friend Marcel Dupré said, ‘a large pencil’. Again, he is determined not to outstay his welcome, and the ‘sign-off’ might sound perfunctory were it not so perfectly judged in both harmony and timing.

The slow movement, in standard ternary form, again exploits the Franckian long note in the middle of the phrase, giving the main theme a yearning quality that we now hear almost for the first time. In the central section Vierne injects some urgency into the proceedings with a figure of four, fast repeated notes that is shared between all four instruments. The first section duly recurs and at first it seems as though we’re heading for another downplayed ending; but Vierne has a surprise in store in the shape of an eighteen-bar coda all over a low tonic A. It may last only 70 seconds, but in the context of the relatively abrupt endings of the previous two movements it’s a masterstroke.

The finale follows the preceding pattern in containing two well contrasted themes, a brisk, stringy one in semiquavers, and a more lyrical one built around triplets and the ever-present long central note. All seems set for a standard rondo form, when the opening flourish returns—and we’re presented with a fugue. The relevance of this becomes clear when the countersubject, the figure that fits with the subject, turns out to be closely related to the movement’s stringy first theme. From here to the end, the main influence would seem to be that of Mendelssohn in academic rather than fairy mode (let it be said, there were many worse influences Vierne could have chosen …). Finally, D minor becomes D major according to the best traditions, providing a stirring conclusion to a work that throughout exhibits ‘the uncommon naturalness’ that so impressed Duruflé in Vierne’s organ playing.

from notes by Roger Nichols © 2014

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