Piano Quintet No. 1 in C minor,
Op. 5 (1853) [22:38]
Piano Quintet No. 2 in A, Op. 6 (1857)
Vienna Philharmonia Quintet
rec. Sofiensaal, Vienna, September 1973.
EXPLORE EXP0003 [51:11]
This is absolutely
gorgeous music. Many people will already
be familiar with the Berwald symphonies,
but as Robert Layton quite rightly points
out in his booklet notes, his chamber
output remains little known.
These 1973 performances
are "first international CD releases"
and seem typical of the searching spirit
of this label; there is some fantastic
Messiaen from John Ogdon and Brenda
Lucas in the same series, by the way.
The low price of the discs in some way
plays off the low playing time of the
The recording is lovely
– warm and spacious. Further, the performances
are intensely musical.
The first quintet’s
Allegro molto has plenty of C
minorish drama about it. It is clear
that the group’s pianist, Eduard Mrazek,
is a chamber player par excellence;
his string companions react in kind.
Producer Christopher Raeburn has ensured
a class product, and the transfer to
CD is indeed reminiscent of the sound
of a good, warm LP. The Adagio quasi
andante is a model of restrained
intimacy. There is no scherzo
in this work, so it is left to a mellifluous
Allegro assai e con spirito to
bring the work to a contented close.
Mrazek’s staccato towards the end is
something to delight in.
The A major quintet
is dedicated to Liszt and possesses
the full quota of four movements. It
begins in a most un-A majorish way with
a very determined gesture, almost angry
in character. It is not long before
the sun comes out, though. Once again
Mrazek is the epitome of grace and charm
while the beautifully balanced recording
allow for full appreciation of Berwald’s
lines. The mild imitative plays of the
jovial second movement and the attractive
Poco andante con grazia show
Berwald’s exquisite taste. The players
here seem at pains to emphasise the
undercurrents of the slow movement.
It is these hints of unrest that enable
the determination of the finale to emerge
There is a direct Naxos
rival to this issue which I must confess
I have not heard (8.553970), but it
does include two movements of a piano
quintet in A, possibly intended for
Op. 6. It is difficult to imagine more
musical and more musically recorded
accounts than the present ones, though.
full Explore catalogue