French chamber music has long been a rich seam that record labels like to mine, and in recent years the familiar names of Fauré, Ravel, Debussy and César Franck have found themselves rubbing shoulders with composers who have not achieved anything like such a prominent presence in the musical life of today.
Louis Vierne (1870-1937) is by no means obscure, but his contemporary Gabriel Pierné (1863-1937) is one of those composers who continues to occupy specialist territory. His substantial Piano Quintet, written in 1916 and first performed in 1919, presents a fascinating synthesis of ripe late 19th-century romantic sensibility and the new ideas of texture and harmony emerging in the early years of the 20th century.
It was Fauré who sparked the renaissance of French chamber music with his A major Violin Sonata of 1876, and the composers who sat at the feet of César Franck made significant contributions to the repertoire.
Vierne and Pierné were both Franck pupils, and the pairing of the two on this fine disc by the Goldner String Quartet and pianist Piers Lane testifies both to his inspirational tutorial rigour and his nurturing of creative individuality in his charges.
Long but securely structured, the Pierné Quintet starts in a highly original, atmospherically veiled way, which, after some dramatic peaks in the first movement, is carried over into the delicacy and rhythmic intrigue with which Pierné treats the Basque 'zortzico' dance in the middle one.
In the Vierne Quartet of 1894, the Goldners pitch their playing perceptively, pointing to the influences of Franck and Mendelssohn. There is discipline in this music, but also a warmth of spirit that finds an outlet in the third movement, and which the Goldners interpret with stylish sensitivity—a characteristic, indeed, of the whole disc.