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Hyperion Records

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Afternoon in the Park by Hippolyte Petitjean (1854-1929)
Phillips Fine Art / Bridgeman Art Library, London
Track(s) taken from CDA67431/2
Recording details: July 2004
Henry Wood Hall, London, United Kingdom
Release date: May 2005
Total duration: 29 minutes 45 seconds

'…this is a set of sheer delight: let's hear it for imaginative conservatism' (Gramophone)

'These are full-blooded performances, packed with energy and colour, and every corner is turned under complete control' (BBC Music Magazine)

'It is repertoire that really shows up the ensemble's strengths and its ability to encompass the richest ensemble-playing, as well as the exposed solo work required of the accompanied sonata medium … there is plenty of mellifluously drawn melodic writing, playful harmonic twists and textural ingenuity to enjoy' (The Daily Telegraph)

'It is a charming collection, beautifully played; this is precisely the repertoire in which the Nash excels … The opening cantilena of the Oboe Sonata is positively rapturous … just as the mysterious fugal introduction to the finale of the early Piano Quintet [is] fabulously played by cellist Paul Watkins and violist Lawrence Power' (The Guardian)

'[The] Sonatas are all played with an ideal combination of infectious virtuosity and phrasal sensitivity to have these all-too-rarely heard works come dancing off the page. Sensational flautist Philippa Davies is on hand to add her own special brand of artistry … and producer Andrew Keener and engineer Simon Eadon typically capture the proceedings with their usual magical blend of warmth and clarity, making this an issue to cherish. The Nash Ensemble could hardly wish for a finer musical testimonial in this their fortieth birthday year' (International Record Review)

'a splendid two-disc set … mounted with that special sparkle they always bring to French repertoire' (The Times)

'A legend in his own lifetime, Saint-Saëns tantalises us with distinctive, lively and imaginative pieces, explored and played with terrific vivacity and style' (Classic FM Magazine)

'The Nash Ensemble, a British organisation that alters its makeup as the situation requires, has a long and distinguished history on record. This latest offering continues the tradition. Warmly recommended' (Fanfare, USA)

Piano Quartet in B flat major, Op 41

Allegretto  [7'15]
Allegro  [9'55]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
The quartet form presented a challenge to Saint-Saëns. As early as 1875, Saint-Saëns composed his Piano Quartet in B flat major Op 41, which remained his last foray into this medium. This quartet was actually the second complete piano quartet composed by Saint-Saëns. In 1851–3 he had written a Piano Quartet in E major which he performed but which was not published until it was recently resurrected and published posthumously in 1992. Saint-Saëns himself premiered the Op 41 Quartet on 6 March 1875 at Salle Pleyel with Pablo de Sarasate, Alfred Turban and Léon Jacquard. The year 1875 marked several momentous occasions in the life of Saint-Saëns: his marriage to Marie-Laure Truffot, the birth of his son André, the composition of his biblical poem Le Déluge and the Fourth Piano Concerto, and the first performance of his symphonic poem Danse macabre.

The cyclical Piano Quartet continues to be a staple in the repertoire for violin, viola, cello and piano. The majestic opening movement, Allegretto in common time, provides two themes of different character: the first somewhat improvisational in feeling with its interchanges between the piano and strings, the second an undulating melody more lyrical in nature. These themes are developed and repeated with the first bringing the movement to a pianissimo close. The slower second movement, Andante maestoso ma con moto in G minor, contrasts two motifs, the forceful rhythmic one enunciated by the piano and the chorale-like one in the strings, providing much dialogue, fugal entries, and imitations between the various voices in learned fashion. The third movement, Poco allegro più tosto moderato in D minor in 6/8, a scherzo in rondo form, starts in unison motion with unusual rhythmic effects increasing the tempo to Prestissimo and evaporating the sound to a pianissimo at the end. The grand Allegro finale is a spirited fantasy-like movement in duple time with many skilful contrapuntal effects. Elements of the theme of the Andante are included in the recapitulation, while in the coda the two themes of the Allegretto are joined by the chorale-like theme of the Andante and engage in a joyful fugato. Once again, as in the quintet he composed twenty years earlier, Saint-Saëns is inspired by cyclic form.

from notes by Sabina Teller Ratner © 2005

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