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Hyperion Records

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The South Downs near Eastbourne by Edward Reginald Frampton (1872-1923)
© Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum, Bournemouth / Bridgeman Art Library, London
Track(s) taken from CDA67857
Recording details: July 2010
Potton Hall, Dunwich, Suffolk, United Kingdom
Produced by Jeremy Hayes
Engineered by Ben Connellan
Release date: July 2011
Total duration: 38 minutes 51 seconds

'Two fine Elgar offerings … such observant, poised and (above all) irresistibly communicative playing' (Gramophone)

'This is one of those rare discs that gives pleasure and food for thought in equal measure … it has rarely been done as well as here. Even The Nash Ensemble don’t match the delicate, nervous sensibility the Goldner Quartet bring to the String Quartet's deceptively 'peaceful' slow movement, nor the depth of secret sadness they and Lane find in the Piano Quintet's ghostly opening … all round, a new top recommendation' (BBC Music Magazine)

'The Quintet is given real stature in this very fine recording, with the Goldners and Piers Lane revelling in the expansive themes of the opening moderato and the unashamedly romantic Adagio. The Goldners bring the same emotional intensity to the febrile Quartet with its shifting tonality and quirky rhythmic scheme, before Lane presents some fascinating miniatures' (The Observer)

'The Goldner String Quartet judges the Elgar idiom persuasively, finding that blend of sensibility and muscularity, wistful meditation and optimistic motivation … played with distinction, and with a secure grasp of the give and take of pulse that is integral to Elgar’s music' (The Daily Telegraph)

'This fine account [of the Piano Quintet] by Piers Lane and the Goldner Quartet demonstrates it's full of highly expressive, authentically Elgarian tunes. The Goldners' account of the Quartet is finely fluent, too, and in both works they resist the temptation to over-egg the climaxes' (The Guardian)

'The well-named Goldner Quartet capture those golden sounds—and the piece's elegiac moods—in an exquisitely nuanced way. The Quintet, more extrovert despite its moving adagio, gets brilliant playing from Lane' (The Sunday Times)

'The String Quartet and Piano Quintet make an ideal pairing … the Quartet is delicately charming, with an exquisite Elgarian touch that the Goldners capture most sympathetically, without sentimentalising it. They also give an excellent performance with Piers Lane of the better known, much more dramatic Piano Quintet, tracing its mood swings seamlessly and handling the great Adagio with the unaffected restraint it deserves' (Financial Times)

'Once again Piers Lane and the Goldner String Quartet gives us something very special' (ClassicalSource.com)

Piano Quintet in A minor, Op 84
composer
1918/9; first performed in Hampstead on 7 March 1919; first public performance given by Albert Sammons, WH Reed, Raymond Jeremy, Felix Salmond and William Murdoch at Wigmore Hall on 21 May 1919; dedicated to Ernest Newman

Adagio  [13'08]

Other recordings available for download
The Nash Ensemble
Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
The Piano Quintet in A minor Op 84 is a more ambitious, more expansive work than the Quartet. Bernard Shaw wrote to Elgar that it was: ‘the finest thing of its kind since Coriolan. I don’t know why I associated the two; but I did: there was the same quality—the same vein.’ It was an unexpected association, a quintet and a theatre overture which do not begin alike in any literal way. But the ‘of its kind’ must have meant that Shaw was alert to the compressed force in Elgar’s introduction: the serious confrontation of the slow, emotionally rather blank piano theme in octaves, against the insistent stabbing strings and the highly personal chromatic passage that follows. The piano theme reflects the plainsong chant Salve regina. Only the first four notes, A-G-A-D, are a direct link, but the effect is austere. The imploring chromatic passage, the cello rising against the drop of the other strings, portrays human anguish. The whole Quintet is haunted by this drama.

The second subject—swaying violins in thirds in a languorous dance, in A major with G naturals and B flats—sounds Spanish. The sublime Adagio reaches a profound romantic stillness; the finale is vigorous and handsome. But the full implications of the first movement are not revealed until the middle of the last movement, where ghostly presences return; confidence falters, and memories and presentiments play out some interior drama, dispelled as the recapitulation gathers strength.

Elgar dedicated the Quintet to the critic Ernest Newman, who wrote of the ‘quasi-programme that lies at the base of the work’. The primitive isolated cottage, and the music Elgar composed there, have gathered associations and myths around them. Early biographers wrote of a legend that a group of dead, twisted trees near Brinkwells were the forms of Spanish monks struck by lightning while performing impious rites. Lady Elgar’s diary about the Quintet refers to the sad and sinister trees and the ‘wail for their sins’. She records a visit during the composition by Algernon Blackwood, teller of occult tales, and of Elgar’s reading Bulwer-Lytton’s A Strange Story. But research has since shown that there was no settlement of Spanish monks in Sussex, and no local knowledge of the legend.

However, the story was published while Elgar was alive and he didn’t contradict it. That makes the matter more, not less, interesting, for it seems likely that the Spanish monks, the blasphemous dance and the lightning blast of retribution were fastened by Elgar’s own imagination onto the twisted trees; and who can be sure whether the music, shaping itself in his subconscious, suggested the ‘legend’, or the ‘legend’ the music? Lady Elgar felt too that the ‘wonderful weird beginning’ of the Quintet had the same atmosphere as Owls, Elgar’s part-song of 1907 to his own eerie and nihilistic words: ‘What is that? … Nothing […] A wild thing hurt but mourns in the night […] All that could be is said.’

So all those experiences formed the background to Elgar’s Quintet. The details matter less than that there is some great drama being played out. After private run-throughs the two works were performed on 21 May 1919 at Wigmore Hall in London by Albert Sammons, W H Reed, Raymond Jeremy, Felix Salmond and William Murdoch.

from notes by Diana McVeagh © 2011


Other albums featuring this work
'Elgar: Piano Quintet & Violin Sonata' (CDH55301)
Elgar: Piano Quintet & Violin Sonata
MP3 £4.99FLAC £4.99ALAC £4.99Buy by post £5.50 CDH55301  Helios (Hyperion's budget label)  

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