Dohnányi's First Piano Quintet in C minor enjoyed a particularly auspicious debut in Vienna in 1895, attracting the imprimatur of no less a person than Johannes Brahms. Given the astonishing mastery and strongly defined thematic ideas that characterise the teenage Hungarian composer’s Op 1, Brahms’s enthusiasm seems to have been entirely justified. The Takács Quartet and Marc-André Hamelin capture the freshness and vitality of this youthful work to perfection, its outer movements and Scherzo projected here with all the necessary exhilaration and rhythmic vigour. The players also revel in the Schumannesque ardour of the lyrical Adagio, its continuous stream of lyrical melodies phrased here with marvellous sensitivity.
Dohnányi's Second Piano Quintet in E flat minor, written in 1914, is a complex and emotionally troubled work. True, the influence of Brahms is still evident in the cut and thrust of the melodies, but the harmonic language is far more chromatic with some powerful and intense writing in the outer movements. The performance from Hamelin and the Takács is totally compelling, encapsulating a vast array of colours and textures, from the dark and mysterious opening and the wistfulness of the central Intermezzo to the anguished climaxes of the Finale.
In sharp contrast, the subtly constructed Second Quartet in D flat major from 1906 exudes a largely sunny disposition, only momentarily disrupted by the demonic energy of the Scherzo (Presto acciaccato). The Takács gives a superbly committed reading which once again maximises the music’s textural and dynamic variety. A treasurable disc.