> FARRENC Piano Quintets CDDCA1122 [CC]: Classical Reviews- January 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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HOFFNUNG for CHRISTMAS? an ideal Christmas present for yourself or your friends.
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Louise FARRENC (1804-79)
Piano Quintets – No. 1 in A minor, Op. 30; No. 2 in E, Op. 31.

Schubert Ensemble of London (William Howard, piano; Simon Blendis, violin; Douglas Paterson, viola; Jane Salmon, cello; Peter Buckike, double bass).
Recorded in Potton Hall, Suffolk on February 8th-10th, 2001.
ASV CDDCA1122 [59’26] [DDD]


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Perhaps the time is ripe for a reappraisal of the talents of French composer Louise Farrenc. In addition to the present disc, Pierre Verany has issued this composer's three Symphonies on a two-disc set (PV700030, with the Orchestre de Bretagne under Stefan Sanderling) and, if the Schubert Ensemble of London’s fresh accounts of these two Piano Quintets convince you of this composer’s worth, that is the logical next step. The Symphonies are similarly imbued with a freshness of invention that is guaranteed to delight.

Farrenc was a pupil of Antonin Reicha (1770-1836), but studied also with Hummel and Moscheles. She was a Professor of Piano at the Paris Conservatoire, beginning in 1842 and holding the post for over thirty years. Both Schumann and Berlioz had good words to say about her. The good news is that there is a large output of solo piano music, four piano trios and more chamber music to discover. If these pieces continue in this vein, this is indeed a rich avenue to explore.

The Piano Quintets on this disc are beautiful, enchanting music. Those lucky enough to attend concerts given by the Schubert Ensemble of London will know of their superb rapport, possibly kept fresh by their insatiable musical curiosity in combination with their laudable championship of the music of our time. Here they successfully convey the sense of freshness of discovery, whether in the virtuoso Scherzo of No. 1 (the Trio has a real spring in its step) or in the singing, expressive Adagio non troppo of the same quintet. In this latter movement, set off by Jane Salmon’s movingly expressive cello playing, Farrenc’s imagination is at its highest as she makes full use of the available sonorities.

The First Quintet dates from 1829. The Second, from the next year, the invention continues unabated. The first movement includes a slow introduction (Andante sostenuto), but these are hardly storm clouds on the horizon, and the Allegro grazioso arrives like a breath of fresh air. The delicacy of the Grave second movement is particularly affecting; once more, the last movement is positively bursting with joyous energy.

The recording is excellent, with little of the dryness which can mark discs from this company. Very much recommended.


Colin Clarke


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