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Ferdinand RIES (1784-1838)
Piano Quintet in B minor Op. 74 (publ. 1817)
Franz LAMMER (1808-1857)

Piano Quintet in D minor Op. 13
Nepomuk Fortepiano Quintet
Recorded Maria Minor, Utrecht, May 2003


These two Piano Quintets share something of the same primus inter pares aesthetic. The Concertante element is quite explicit in Lammer’s virtuosic and powerful work, perhaps less pronounced in the Ries piece. Published in 1817 and cast in three movements Ries mines a vein of Hungarian melody after the grave opening passages, rich in portent. The folk strain contains some cimbalom imitation and plenty of right hand fortepiano tracery. The main Allegro section is rather more obviously conventional though it’s still very attractive. After the cello solo the Larghetto develops a rather pensive and piano-led profile before a banishing-cares finale with perky piano leading on to a calm moment of reflection and renewed drive. Not a particularly innovative work nor in truth an outstanding example of the genre – but the Nepomuk Fortepiano Quintet do all they can for it.

The Lammer is distinctly a few notches higher. Firstly it is imbued with Schubertian lyricism and drama and secondly it has a strong part for the fortepiano protagonist. Its limitations are the same as those of the Ries – a problem with form. Neither a Concerto nor an unambiguous chamber work it rather falls between the musical cracks. At times it sounds distinctly like a Concerto reduction, with tutti sections firmly in place and grand gestures from the "soloist." Lammer however was a composer of some substance and if the opening Allegro outstays its welcome it does at least introduce the specific elements of solo/tutti that inform its length. The constant syncopation in the Scherzo – full of strain and drama – is nicely contrasted with the airy lightness of the trio section. I liked the long and rather discursive Adagio with its cadential passages for the fortepiano; it adds to the rather unsettled nature of the work. Also the finale, with its clever rhythm and polyphonic depth, as it explores melodic contours with renewed anticipation.

The performances are disarmingly charming and, where necessary, forceful. Fortepianist Riko Fukuda takes on the greatest burden and acquits herself with distinction. If neither work resolves the tension in form both deserve a serious hearing – especially in these committed performances.

Jonathan Woolf


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