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Track(s) taken from CDA67638

Piano Quintet No 2

February to July 1957; commissioned by The University of California for the inauguration of the Alfred Hertz Memorial Hall of Music; first performed there by Marjorie Petray and the Griller Quartet on 15 April 1958

Piers Lane (piano), Goldner String Quartet
Recording details: February 2007
Menuhin Hall, Yehudi Menuhin School, Stoke d'Abernon, Cobham, Surrey, United Kingdom
Produced by Amanda Hurton
Engineered by Ben Connellan
Release date: November 2007
Total duration: 18 minutes 42 seconds

Cover artwork: Shades of Night by Nesta Jennings Campbell (d1951)
Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museums, Gloucestershire / Bridgeman Art Library, London


'A fabulous CD this, easily the best recording of Bloch's chamber music I've heard in years … the first Quintet, a product of the early 1920s, seems to combine the acerbic drive of middle-period Bartók with the kind of veiled sensuality one associates more with Chausson or Fauré. Bloch's use of quarter-tones, aimed at intensifying the work's already heightened emotional atmosphere, requires careful handling, and the Goldner Quartet make them sound both musically striking and entirely natural. If you need a sampling-point, try the finale's opening, where the sense of urgency will hold you riveted … the Quintet's quiet coda is rapturously beautiful and the blending of voices between Piers Lane and the Goldners simply could not be bettered … the music is truly wonderful, the playing entirely sympathetic and the sound perfectly balanced' (Gramophone)

'This new beautifully balanced recording in which Piers Lane partners the Australian-based Goldner Quartet has the edge in almost every respect … in the First Quintet Lane and the Goldners manage to communicate the urgency and immediacy of Bloch's musical argument with far greater fervour than their Czech colleagues on the Praga Digitalis release … most attractive are the three Paysages, depicting landscapes as disparate as the frozen Arctic wastes, the slopes of the Alps and the energetic exotic rhythms of the South Pacific islands in vivid colours' (BBC Music Magazine)

'The performances are superb! The Goldners and pianist Lane play with complete technical command and an emotional commitment to the works' (American Record Guide)

'This Hyperion release is not only perfectly compiled … but also brings, with the opening of the First Piano Quintet, music that is particularly striking and which also becomes compulsive … the middle movement is an atmospheric Andante mistico, melodic and spacious, strangely beautiful and full of Eastern promise, exotic and ethereal, the writing skilful and imaginative … a powerful and enveloping whole that is both intoxicating yet underpinned with logic … Piers Lane (a sensitive chamber music player whose concerto-soloist confidence and personality is a boon) and the Goldner String Quartet (a group of real distinction) give superb performances, deeply committed, vividly declaring without sacrificing good balance, attention to detail and a wide dynamic range, qualities brought forth by the excellent recording' (International Record Review)

'[Piano Quintet No 1] ranks among the finest in the genre … a work of astonishing immediacy, at once lyrical and aggressive, that takes you on a lurching emotional journey before achieving stability in the most serene C major imaginable … the performances, by the Goldner String Quartet and pianist Piers Lane, are tremendously authoritative in their combination of technical daring and expressive power' (The Guardian)

'In his two finely crafted piano quintets, we find sonata form mingling with quarter-tones and an identifiably Jewish lyricism: very engaging, especially in these performances from Lane and the Goldner String Quartet' (Financial Times)

'Start with the Andante mistico of the First Quintet and you'll discover real intensity in expression and music that borders on the religious in its devoted strength … presented with such vigour and playful ease, particularly by Piers Lane … all essential listening, but the musically most rewarding works here are without doubt the two piano quintets, which I will return to time and time again, not least for the brilliant Piers Lane' (Pianist)
The Piano Quintet No 2, composed between February and July 1957, was the last piece of chamber music that Bloch wrote. He was already suffering from the colonic cancer to which he finally succumbed two years later, and had been unsure as to whether he would live long enough to complete the commission received from the Music Department of the University of California at Berkeley to contribute a work for the inauguration of the Alfred Hertz Memorial Hall of Music during the May T Morrison Festival in 1958. Bloch was characteristically determined to honour this invitation, especially as he had had a close relationship with Berkeley; and indeed, of the six composers invited to join in this project (the others being Arthur Bliss, Darius Milhaud, Roger Sessions, William O Smith, and Randall Thompson), his was the first work to be submitted. The premiere was given by Marjorie Petray and the Griller Quartet in the Hertz Hall on 15 April 1958.

The opening movement, Animato, begins energetically with a four-bar introduction leading to the first of several themes, two of which are dodecaphonic tone rows. However, as with his quarter-tones, Bloch had no intention of creating or following a ‘system’. In fact, he eschewed ‘serial’ composition, preferring, rather, to use all twelve semitones of the chromatic scale within a tonal/modal context. In this work he emphasized his individual approach by inserting into the first row two extra notes, a perfect fifth apart. Elsewhere, there are tritones in abundance, wide leaps alternating with scalic contours, motifs and harmonic progressions assembled in an ever-rising sequence, passages of gritty homophony juxtaposed with flowing polyphony, dissonances resolving into consonances, and an exploration of the entire dynamic range—tending, however, more to forte than to piano.

The slow movement, Andante, offers a further example of Bloch’s love of the mystical, the lyrical, and the pastoral. It is an air with variations, beginning in C sharp minor, replete with oscillating triplet figurations in the piano part, and mellifluous counterpoint in the strings. Shortly before the climax near the end of the movement there are two passages that are reminiscent of prominent motifs from Schelomo and the Suite hébraïque.

Following without a break is the finale, Allegro, characterized by its motoric drive. Much of the writing is similar to that of the first movement. However, after a series of cascading scales, the mood changes and the tempo broadens into the concluding Calmo section which brings the work to a close—pianissimo—in the key of E major.

from notes by Alexander Knapp © 2007

Composé de février à juillet 1957, le Quintette avec piano no 2 fut l’ultime musique de chambre de Bloch. Déjà atteint du cancer du colon qui devait l’emporter deux ans plus tard, ce dernier n’était pas sûr de vivre assez longtemps pour pouvoir terminer l’œuvre commandée par le département de musique de l’Université de Californie (Berkeley) pour l’inauguration de l’Alfred Hertz Memorial Hall of Music, prévue lors du May T. Morrison Festival (1958). Il était, ce qui lui ressemblait bien, déterminé à honorer cette invitation, surtout à cause des liens privilégiés qu’il entretenait avec Berkeley; et de fait, des six compositeurs conviés à ce projet, le quintette de Bloch fut terminé le premier (les cinq autres étaient Arthur Bliss, Darius Milhaud, Roger Sessions, William O. Smith et Randall Thompson). Le Quintette fut créé au Hertz Hall le 15 avril 1958 par Marjorie Petray et le Griller Quartet.

Le mouvement d’ouverture, Animato, démarre énergiquement par une introduction de quatre mesures débouchant sur un thème—plusieurs autres suivront, dont deux séries dodécaphoniques. Cependant, comme avec les quarts de ton, Bloch ne voulut en rien créer ou suivre un «système». En réalité, il éluda la composition «sérielle» et préféra utiliser les douze demi-tons de la gamme chromatique dans un contexte tonal/modal. Dans cette œuvre, il souligna son approche singulière en insérant dans la première série deux notes supplémentaires, à une quinte parfaite d’écart. Ailleurs, les tritons abondent, de larges sauts alternent avec des contours en gammes, des motifs et des progressions harmoniques sont assemblés en une séquence toujours ascendante, des passages à l’homophonie incisive sont juxtaposés à une polyphonie fluide, des dissonances se résolvent en consonances, et toute la gamme dynamique est explorée—tendant cependant plus à forte qu’à piano.

Le mouvement lent, Andante, illustre, lui aussi, l’amour de Bloch pour le mystique, le lyrique et le pastoral. Il s’agit d’un air avec variations qui, s’ouvrant en ut dièse mineur, est gorgé de figurations en triolets oscillantes (piano) et de mélodieux contrepoints (cordes). Peu avant l’apogée, vers la fin du mouvement, deux passages rappellent les motifs saillants de Schelomo et de la Suite hébraïque.

Embrayant directement, le finale, Allegro, se caractérise par son élan «motorique». Son écriture est en grande partie similaire à celle du premier mouvement. Pourtant, passé une série de gammes cascadantes, le climat change et le tempo s’évase en une section conclusive Calmo, qui clôt l’œuvre—pianissimo—en mi majeur.

extrait des notes rédigées par Alexander Knapp © 2007
Français: Hyperion Records Ltd

Das Klavierquintett Nr. 2, das zwischen Februar und Juli 1957 komponiert wurde, war das letzte kammermusikalische Stück, das Bloch schrieb. Er litt bereits an dem Darmkrebs, dem er zwei Jahre später schließlich erlag, und war sich nicht sicher, ob er lange genug leben würde, um den Auftrag erfüllen zu können, den er von der Musikabteilung der University of California in Berkeley erhalten hatte, ein Werk für die feierliche Eröffnung der Alfred Hertz Memorial Hall of Music während des May T. Morrison Festivals 1958 zu schrieben. Bloch war charakteristisch entschlossen, diese Einladung anzunehmen, besonders da er ein enges Verhältnis zu Berkeley hatte; von den sechs Komponisten, die zu diesem Projekt eingeladen wurden, reichte er sogar zuerst seinen Beitrag ein (die anderen Komponisten waren Arthur Bliss, Darius Milhaud, Roger Sessions, William O. Smith, and Randall Thompson). Die Premiere wurde am 15. April 1958 von Marjorie Petray und dem Griller-Quartett in der Hertz Hall gespielt.

Der Anfangssatz, Animato, beginnt dynamisch mit einer viertaktigen Einleitung, die zum ersten mehrerer Themen führt, von denen zwei Zwölftonreihen sind. Wie mit den Vierteltönen, hatte Bloch jedoch auch hier nicht die Absicht, ein „System“ zu schaffen oder ihm zu folgen. Er vermied sogar „serielle“ Komposition und bevorzugte stattdessen, die zwölf Halbtöne der chromatischen Tonleiter in einem tonal/modalen Kontext zu verwenden. In diesem Werk unterstrich er seinen individuellen Ansatz, indem er in die erste Reihe zwei extra Noten im Abstand einer reinen Quinte einfügte. An anderen Stellen findet sich häufig der Tritonus, wechseln sich weite Sprünge mit skalenhaften Konturen ab, versammeln sich Motive und harmonische Fortschreitungen in stets ansteigenden Sequenzen, werden Passagen handfester Homophonie fließender Polyphonie gegenübergestellt, lösen sich Dissonanzen in Konsonanzen auf und wird das gesamte dynamische Spektrum ausgelichtet—wenn es auch eher in Richtung forte als piano tendiert.

Der langsame Satz, Andante, bietet ein weiteres Beispiel für Blochs Liebe zum Mystischen, Lyrischen und Pastoralen. Er ist eine Air mit Variationen und beginnt in cis-Moll, voller oszillierender Triolenfiguren in der Klavierstimme und lieblichem Kontrapunkt in den Streichern. Kurz vor dem Höhepunkt gegen Ende des Satzes gibt es zwei Passagen, die an markante Motive aus Schelomo und der Suite hébraïque erinnern.

Das Finale, Allegro, folgt ohne Unterbrechung und zeichnet sich durch seinen motorischen Drang aus. Die Schreibweise ist meist der des ersten Satzes ähnlich. Nach einer Reihe kaskadierender Skalen schlägt die Stimmung jedoch um, und das Tempo verbreitert sich in das abschließende Calmo, womit das Werk pianissimo in E-Dur endet.

aus dem Begleittext von Alexander Knapp © 2007
Deutsch: Renate Wendel

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