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Hyperion Records

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Track(s) taken from CDH55173
Recording details: December 1984
Rosslyn Hill Unitarian Chapel, Hampstead, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Mark Brown
Engineered by Antony Howell
Release date: December 1986
Total duration: 29 minutes 18 seconds

'A most striking performance, beautifully modulated, elegantly phrased … very well recorded indeed' (BBC Record Review)

'Some of the most joyously delightful music that you will ever hear' (American Record Guide)

'Captivating' (Hi-Fi News)

'Two delightful rarities' (The Musical Times)

'Rimsky’s youthful quintet is a thoroughly diverting piece … like a garrulous but endearing friend whose loquacity is readily borne for the sake of his charm and good nature' (Penguin Stereo Record Guide)

Quintet in B flat major

Allegro con brio  [10'30]
Andante  [10'29]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov was the youngest member of ‘The Mighty Handful’, and probably the most competent technically, though his early training was very haphazard; he was in the navy until 1873. The Quintet in B flat major dates from a fallow period in his output, while he was studying counterpoint, something reflected in the few works which he completed at that time. He also wrote memoirs, published as My Musical Life, and he describes the composition of the Quintet:

In 1876 the Russian Musical Society announced a prize contest for a work in chamber music. The desire to write something for this contest seized me … and I took it into my head to write a Quintet for the piano and wind instruments. I composed the Quintet in three movements.
The fate of my Sextet [for strings] and my Quintet was as follows: The jury awarded the prize to Nápravník’s Trio; it found my Sextet worthy of honourable mention, but disregarded my Quintet entirely, along with the works of the other competitors. It was said that Leschetizky had played Nápravník’s Trio beautifully at sight for the jury, whereas my Quintet had fallen into the hands of Cross, a mediocre sight-reader who had made such a fiasco of it that the work was not even heard to the end. Had my Quintet been fortunate in the performer, it would surely have attracted the jury’s attention. Its fiasco at the competition was undeserved, nevertheless, for it pleased the audience greatly when Y Goldstein played it subsequently at a concert of the St Petersburg Chamber Music Society.

Rimsky-Korsakov tells us that the first movement is ‘in the classic style of Beethoven’. Its two themes are well contrasted – a lively melody begun by the bassoon, and a hymn-like tune for the wind instruments alone. Development, as in the Glinka, tends to consist of passages repeated in different keys.

The Andante is in the home key of B flat, and its opening horn melody adopts the typically Russian technique of repeating its phrases against a different harmonic background. When the clarinet develops a longer phrase in the minor, this in turn is repeated another four times to a series of luscious accompaniments. There is a ‘fairly good fugato for the wind instruments’, and the movement ends with the return of the first section.

The final Rondo is based on a catchy tune with a hopping bassoon accompaniment. This time the piano gets a fugato on its own, and before the third appearance of the theme each instrument except the bassoon has a cadenza, ‘according to the character of each instrument’.

from notes by Timothy Mason © 1985

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